Arcade Fire – “The Lightning I, II”

Arcade Fire – “The Lightning I, II”

Last week, Arcade Fire began to cryptically announce a comeback via mysterious web ads and postcards sent to fans. They followed that up with the announcement of a new single, “The Lightning I, II,” which they debuted live at New Orleans’ Toulouse Theatre this week. Now, the studio version and music video of “The Lightning I,II” is here, and Arcade Fire have announced a brand-new album, WE, scheduled for release in May. WE follows up Arcade Fire’s 2017’s album Everything Now.

Produced by Nigel Godrich, Win Butler, and Régine Chassagne, and recorded in New Orleans, El Paso, and Mount Desert Island, WE resulted from “the longest we’ve ever spent writing, uninterrupted, probably ever,” according to Butler. He and Chassagne began writing the album with the band in February 2020 but were interrupted by the pandemic. There are seven songs divided into two sides: Side “I” is about “the fear and loneliness of isolation” and Side “WE” is about “the joy and power of reconnection,” according to a press release.

Likewise, the album’s first two tracks, “Age Of Anxiety I” and “Age Of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole),” are inspired by the Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem “I Am Waiting.” The album’s second half features “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid),” dedicated to Butler and Chassagne’s son, whose voice appears on WE. Peter Gabriel also joins Chassagne on vocals for “Unconditional II (Race And Religion).” “I’d listen to his songs on the radio growing up, and they were the only places outside of my house where I’d hear drums that sounded like my family’s music,” says Chassagne of Gabriel.

Meanwhile, the album design — a photograph by the artist JR with airbrush coloring by Terry Pastor (David Bowie’s Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust) — is meant to channel the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, Sagittarius A*.

Along with the album announcement, Arcade Fire shared a note about WE:

My grandmother read me a book when I was a little kid that had the word “WE” stamped into its cover in broken 1920s gold leaf

As my eyes grew heavy, in the bedroom my father slept in as a child, I wondered…

What is “WE”? Who are “WE”?

There are questions that can rattle around in your head for a lifetime…
but once in a while the centuries grind to a halt
and WE are given the precious time
to ask again in our child-like inner voice
What is “WE”?
Hiding in the shadow of Carl Jung
is the WE that holds each other back
and tears each other down
the WE that whispers secrets
and complains about paradise
even heaven is too cold…
But also it is the “ONE” of Marley, the Buddha and Abraham
it’s the lightning strike
of our magic mutual creation
it’s the root
WE share
made of the same dust as the stars
WE pray to
It’s the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.
and the iron of the nail on the church door of his namesake
it’s the innocence and the mistake
the universal flaw and the perfect imperfection
The hipsters called it jazz
The hippies called it love
And we call it WE

Below, listen to and watch “The Lightning I, II.”

01 “Age Of Anxiety I”
02 “Age Of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)”
03 “End Of The Empire I-IV”

04 “The Lightning I, II”
05 “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”
06 “Unconditional II (Race and Religion)”
07 “WE”

WE is out 5/6 via Columbia.

Michael Marcelle

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