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With its new album “We”, Arcade Fire finds its flame

8:00 a.m., May 5, 2022

It’s a record that comes from afar. If we want to understand where We, the sixth album by the Canadian band Arcade Fire, draws its incandescent beauty, you have to go back twenty-seven years. At the time, Win Butler, its singer and composer, had the privilege of attending, at the age of 15, a reading of the poem I Am Waiting by its author, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the last representatives of the Beat Generation, who came in person to declaim it in his high school. “I had no idea that this event had had such an impact on me. During all these years, I had not reopened this poetic collection, A Coney Island of the Mind. A few months ago, when I stumbled upon it by chance, I discovered in amazement that these verses had fed all my music without my knowledge. I cried about it. During all these years, the voice of this man had not left me, making its way into my brain. »

An album chaptered like a pop opera

From the poet who died in 2021, we will find in particular this fragment of verse, I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety »in the opening title (Age of Anxiety) of an album chaptered like a pop opera with its pianos, guitars and majestic string climbs against a backdrop of electronic beats.

In the 18 square meters of our studio in New Orleans, we got back into the spirit of our beginnings

Since the explosion ofFuneral in 2004, when the Montreal group exorcised its dead to music of punk rage embellished with farm violins and accordions, we watched with each new album for this burst that the pandemic and confinement seem to have offered to David Bowie’s favorite artists at the end of his career. “The health crisis forced us to review all our plans: suddenly, the world stopped and the borders closed when we had just started a new registration. It was not known if the group would survive it. So, in the 18 square meters of our studio in New Orleans, we went back to the state of mind of our beginnings, when we were recording Funeral for $10,000″continues the singer. “We went back to basics, songs that hold up, without the artifices of production, with just a piano and a guitar, continues Régine Chassagne, companion in the city of Win Butler. We found ourselves in a room wanting to express all our soul. »

melancholic trip

Produced with Nigel Godrich, the historical director of the Radiohead group, this seven-track object is presented as a diptych embracing in the same orchestral movement all the reliefs of a melancholy trip. Stunning. After a first part transcribing with forceful lyrical flights the feeling of impermanence of a world slipping away under our feet, the second part wants to be the counterpoint, or let’s say the resolution, in the form of an unconditional love declared in particular to their son (Unconditional I, Lookout Kid). “I always thought that the sun was inseparable from its shadow, explains the singer dad. We find this in Motown hits: the music is irresistibly danceable while the lyrics are compelling. »

I think Bowie was looking for the same thing as Lennon and we’re looking for the same thing as Bowie

Besides the Who-style guitar reels on the single The Lightning I, II, a crowd of referential echoes crosses this album whose high point will remain the millefeuille End of the Empire I-IV, retracing on a Lennonian stamp the last shards of a West doomed to its finitude. Of A Day in the Life (Beatles) to ­paranoid android (Radiohead), pop music is infatuated with these songs combining three compositions in one, accompanied by a host of harmonic winks. “We feel like animals living in a forest where everyone drinks from the same source, says the couple of songwriters. When we recorded the title Reflector with David Bowie at the Electric Lady studio in New York, he told us: “Oh, the last time I came here was with John Lennon for the Fame title.” I think Bowie was looking for the same thing as Lennon and we’re looking for the same thing as Bowie, but also Duke Ellington, the Pixies or New Order. »

They make it a sublimely baroque work. About this generous piece, curious minds will note the mention of Geoff Barrow, of the group Portishead, on guitar, the sample of the Montreal metro call sign “Prochaine station” and the presence of singer Peter Gabriel on the closing title, We. Why ? Because, just as Lawrence Ferlinghetti served as the trigger for Win Butler, the former Genesis singer served as a musical mainstay for its co-founder during her teenage years. “I grew up in Montreal, but my family comes from Haiti, explains Régine Chassagne. At a time when the Internet did not exist, Peter Gabriel was the only singer who provided access to a whole palette of rhythms and songs of the world absent from mainstream culture. It was very valuable to me. » His albums were titled Under Where Up. With Wethey were able to give him the answer.

We***

Released May 6 (Sony Music).

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