"Just make it painless" is the refrain of "Creature Comfort" that Win sings into his lightbulb mic
Arcade Fire has never really been a band of subtlety. Sure, they've gotten metaphorical here and there but the way they communicate has always been fairly straight-forward. For example, Reflektor in general was a largely built up on a Greek mythological analogy. Despite over-arching allusions like that, it's always been rather clear exactly what personal issues were plaguing the band, or more specifically Win Butler. His lyrics have sort of straight-to-the-heart-of-it approach. Personally, I've felt that while at times Butler's melancholic tendencies can border on a little cheesy, for the most part they are incredibly profound, or resonant at the very least.
The band's latest release, a manic-minded dance tune titled "Creature Comfort" might be one of the most stunning examples of Butler's direct communication yet. What makes it all the more effective is the music that accompanies the thought-provoking lyrics itself. Approaching some of the most glam-jam moments of 2013's dance-centric Reflektor, "Creature Comfort" features a synth opening reminiscent of Animal Collective, although the melody has Arcade Fire written all over it.
The first 45 seconds of the song would have you believe that it's going to be a fun, easy going track. Then Win comes in with "some boys hate themselves, spend their lives resenting their fathers", and the rest of the song follows down a similar path. The video itself bolsters the directness even further by having the lyrics streamed along the bottom and top of the video.
Clad in similarly shiny Reflektor-type garb, the crew of Arcade Fire seemed to be enjoying themselves in the video. They're on a minimalist set, essentially making a performance video. The camera is stationary throughout the video as the band dances around through flashing strobe lights. It seems to fit to the ethos of Arcade Fire, at least that of their recent efforts. That is, they're trying to make music that is serious in content but fun in execution. They want to create cathartic experiences that you can dance to.
Only a few weeks before releasing "Creature Comfort", the band dropped "Everything Now". The music and accompanying video, both far more dynamic and large-scape, demonstrate a diverse range to Arcade Fire's approach to their sound for their next album. Despite those differences, they still just as introspective as ever as the lyrics on "Everything Now" ring of similar tones as "Creature Comfort".
"Just make it painless" is the refrain of "Creature Comfort" that Win sings into his lightbulb mic and I'm wondering to myself is this something new? Is this something I could have heard from Arcade Fire before? What I really want to know going into their next album, is how have they grown and what's different. While in many ways, this is a song that sounds like it could have come off of their last album, there are parts of that seem fresh to me.
A lot of Arcade Fire's work is about their personal struggles. Win Butler's lyrics, while relatable to most of his audience, are about what he is grappling with. When first listening to the song, it seemed like he was widening his perspective, singing about others. He starts off singing about boys and girls that hate themselves and, at probably the most poignant moment of the song, a girl that "dreams about dying all the time" and puts on their "first record" when planning killing herself.
After the first chorus though, Win goes back to talk about how "it goes on and on" and how he "doesn't know what [he] wants" and he "doesn't know if [he] wants it". Undoubtedly, it's a powerful moment in the song as Win carries the lyrics with extreme emotional force behind the words. Nonetheless, it had me wondering about the thematic connective tissue of the track.
Is the creature comfort something that connects Win to those others who struggle around him, the boys and girls who hate themselves? He tells us that it is the "creature comfort" that answers the refrain's want of making it "painless". On a side note, one of the highlights of this song, as with any that she is featured prominently on, is Régine Chassagne's backup vocals. She has the impeccable power of adding a burst of flare to any track on the song.
Many parts of this song sound like they're relating Win's struggles with those around him and how they all cope with their problems. These boys and girls that live in self-hatred and self-harm are always waiting for the "feedback". The concept of the "feedback" they refer to connected to the "make me famous/make it painless" notion could be the hope that fame takes away the pain behind all the self-hatred and harm. Thats where the song switches to Win's perspective, part of a band that has become famous, as he ponders whether or not being famous has really helped at all with his problems.
At the same time that Butler wishes "God, just make me famous", he also expresses a desire to be buried "penniless and nameless". The concept of dying "penniless and nameless" is a very prevalent trop and very real outcome for many now-famous artists. Win know that he's made it big and he's famous (as he sings "we're not nameless") so he's either expressing that he sees a trajectory where he winds up, despite his current fame, unknown and obscure in death. It's either that or he yearns to be back at a point where he was an artist alone without the notoriety. That would seem to fit the "I don't know if I want it" portion of the song. The same contradictory predicament comes up when Win sings "I'm a liar, don't doubt my sincerity". It's the sort of paradoxical lyricism I might expect from some of Isaac Brock's lyrics.
The song ends without a clear conclusion to the issues raised throughout, as if there will never really be answer to those introspective quandaries. Instead, they band continues to either confirm that "creature comfort" does in fact make it all painless or they are still begging for it to "make it painless". From there the song trails off into a classic "na na na" melody refrain. It's almost like they're saying "fuck it" to all the rumination, "let's just dance and sing and whatever".