Arcade Fire, a band not generally celebrated for its sense of humor, recently posted a spoof review of its fifth studio album, “Everything Now” (Columbia). It was perhaps designed as a pre-emptive strike against the type of reviews that inevitably rain down on a band that has moved past critical darling phase into mid-career stasis.
What eludes them is an even better response to that sort of media skepticism: A great album, and “Everything Now” is not that.
To its credit, the Montreal sextet isn’t standing pat. After its surprise Grammy album of the year award in 2012 for “The Suburbs,” it returned with an ambitious double album, “Reflektor,” in 2013, a mix of propulsive dance tracks and slower, less focused art-rock songs.
“Everything Now” is a tighter but not better album. The heavyweight arena anthems of Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut, “Funeral,” are long gone, replaced by brooding lyrics encased in lighter music. “Infinite Content,” the title shared by two songs in the album’s middle, suggests a loose theme. This is an album-length requiem for the overstimulated and the under-inspired, an ode to the numb generation.
It’s hardly a new problem — Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and “Kid A” and Grandaddy’s “The Sophtware Slump,” among others, explored it nearly two decades ago. Arcade Fire try to avoid wallowing by picking up the disco thread that weaved through “Reflektor.” It’s an art-rock band that uses the funkiness of Talking Heads, “Sandinista”-era Clash and ESG as touchstones, along with contemporaries such as LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. It’s no coincidence that LCD’s James Murphy co-produced “Reflektor” and Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter was enlisted to co-produce “Everything Now.”
The last track, “We Don’t Deserve Love,” ends the album with a whimper.