Long-cherished beliefs are under threat. We go through our lives convinced Win Butler has no sense of humour and then he raises the curtain on his new puffed-up high-concept album with the unmistakable sound of Benny Andersson playing Yvonne Elliman. Is it a subversion of pop’s sturdiest bedrocks, or of his own band, or does he just know how to rip off a tune? A couple of tunes. Good ones, and he does it well. Arcade Fire have always been beholden to “the kids” of course, so let’s see what they think.
How good it was to see the return of Win Butler and his cheery “You spilled my pint and I will have my revenge by means of snide humiliation” countenance. Just when you think you might be overwhelmed by the bombastic brilliance of the occasional Arcade Fire anthem, there’s always time to remember what a boorish bunch of curmudgeons lurks behind the highs. Not you though, Regine, you seem nice. It’s Regine too who comes up with the high here, sustaining the chorus refrain as cuddly Win goes off on his tangent. Elsewhere, ‘We Used To Wait’ is rather trim for an epic, vamping hard on the piano, initially threatening to turn into The Beach Boys’ ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone’ and introducing some hammond swirls that were probably intended to be a bit Doors but end up being a lot Inspirals. It’s a brooding set of thrills that tower over a largely forgettable (and perplexingly highly rated in year-end lists) album.
In tune with the jolly atmosphere, Junior looks glum and determined to read her Roald Dahl books instead.