The North American bit, though, does mean we’re covering this…
Mallory O’Donnell: The song that plays while you rip the sleeves off of your Don Henley tour t-shirt, suddenly realize that you look like an ass, put on a fresh shirt, pace around a bit and then end up not going out at all, instead spending another night just sitting around the house drinking oilcans of Foster’s.
Chuck Eddy: I’m sorry, but comparing these anemic indie bores to Springsteen (at least to pre-’90s Springsteen, when he was still making good records) makes even less sense than comparing the Killers to Springsteen, which makes even less sense than comparing Gaslight Anthem to Springsteen, which makes even less sense than comparing the Hold Steady to Thin Lizzy. Which, okay, I probably did once or twice myself, back when the Hold Steady made good records. Still. I own three Iron City Houserockers LPs; I really don’t need this crap. (Also have no idea if folks do still compare this band to Springsteen. But either way, this is the most worthless Jukebox song I’ve heard this year.)
Martin Skidmore: Dim-witted pomposity, half-hearted playing, lifeless singing, bare hints of any tune.
Alfred Soto: I hope Win Butler didn’t trade a new larynx for that keyboard, or for a copy of that T.S. Eliot paperback. This collective’s fooled me once before — when they released “Black Mirror” as the teaser for Neon Bible I thought it was too hushed for its (my) own good until I heard it as part of a proper album sequence. Still, this track meanders for five minutes without approaching anything concrete besides “hope that something pure can last.” Come on, guys — two albums, a David Bowie collaboration, and indie backlash later, and you still worry about sullied principles?
Anthony Easton: Is the difference b/w this kind of indie rock, and other popular forms in recent memory, that of purity — does The Arcade Fire sitll really think there is something pure left to be found, and if they are willing to wait for that purity, what do they think it will consist of?
Michaelangelo Matos: What surprised me about this is how conventionally singer-songwriterly it is, aside of course from the production, whose ornateness carries nicely on headphones at medium volume. I still don’t think these guys have anything interesting to say, though, and the modicum of pleasure I took here was in the build-up. Which is just as well, since they don’t bother with a climax.
Mark Sinker: If you worry you’re expiring of inanition during this there’s a crescendo-and-release in the middle where for a moment you think we might bust out into Amazing Sonic Upland — but then they just arc tiredly back down into the portentously meagre. Didn’t these guys used to be the future of something? Sometimes being detained elsewhere pays dividends.
Alex Ostroff: Last month’s double A-side announced the return of Arcade Fire as a leaner, more purposeful band, abandoning much of the bombast and capital-I ‘Importance’ that plagued Neon Bible in favour of spare, unembellished songs. “We Used to Wait” isn’t as immediately ingratiating as the loping folk of “The Suburbs” or the propulsive rock of “Month of May”, but it’s clearly of a piece. The song opens with a sharp drumbeat, chiming piano chords and Win’s voice firmly in the foreground, meditating on suburban malaise, compromised dreams and growing up. Layers are added gradually and purposefully, building to an underwritten yet full-sounding chorus whose warmth and expansiveness abruptly drop out with each return to the verses. While the undercut crescendo seems frustrating at first, the contrast only serves to increase the release of the final climax. In the past, Arcade Fire’s lyrics were grounded in narrative and detail, and fraught with meaning. This new incarnation leans towards the evocative and vague, but so long as Win’s voice continues to hit that emotional sweet spot halfway between nostalgia and desperation, the substance is secondary.
Jonathan Bogart: I would be lying if I said that I didn’t really like this, but I’m also not sure if that means anything, since I won’t necessarily be listening to it (or the Arcade Fire) much in the foreseeable future. They’ll always be there for me to check out when the mood and occasion demand, but they don’t engage in either the easy predictability of comfort listening or the sort of pop immediacy that makes them fun to write about, and I don’t have room for much else on my listening schedule. But give me a decade, and I’m sure I’ll be championing 00s indie to everyone who’s moved on since.