By Mike Palguta
The band examines current events, the perspective of being a parent, and emotional struggles. In a very literal way as well, at least three of the songs mention watching too much television.
Arcade Fire never lack ambition or vision, but when we try to take too much into view, we lose focus. As a result, WE is uneven. At its best, on tracks like “Age of Anxiety I,” the social commentary is able to come through clearly. The slick glittery disco of previous records turns to a darker club beat. Or “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid),” which offers an earnest piece of parental advice. “The Lightning” parts I and II are peak Arcade Fire, anthemic and grand.
While “The Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole),” has beautiful, driving, swirling rhythms, lyrically it seems like a rough draft. It misses on the social commentary of the opening track work and instead gives an aloof call and response that goes on for nearly seven minutes. Lacking in both particulars and poetics, it doesn’t seem like an idea that is fleshed out.
The ’70s Bowie inspired “End of the Empire I-II” builds in a piano ballad crescendo. Then the next track, “End Of the Empire IV,” with its repeated line “I unsubscribe,” sung like a bad Radiohead impersonation, is dated immediately. It may as well be a song about AOL floppy discs.
This isn’t classic Arcade Fire by any means; for every good song there’s a misstep, but the things that do work make this an enjoyable listen.