Arcade Fire’s new song ‘Generation A’ is a rallying cry for a nation in turmoil

Always engaged with the political moment, the band demand change on their thunderous new anthem – and the timing couldn't be more appropriate

“I don’t think they understand that I am not a patient man,” Arcade Fire’s Win Butler roars on the band’s new single ‘Generation A’. Strategically premiering the tune on chat show special Stephen Colbert Election Night 2020, the band may have hoped to send their rabble-rousing new political anthem into a new America – one comfortably on its way towards a Joe Biden Presidency. As it turns out, with the result still firmly up in the air, Butler is going to have to learn some of that patience.

Read more: What a Donald Trump or Joe Biden victory at the US election will mean for YOU

Arcade Fire have always been a band entangled in the political moment. Whether interrogating nostalgia and its relationship to the current climate on their 2010 masterpiece ‘The Suburbs’, or riffing on the culture of ‘fake news’ in Donald Trump’s first term as President on 2017’s ‘Everything Now’, their music has always been deeply informed by the political landscape that surrounds them. ‘Generation A’ might be their fiercest and most forward political statement yet, though.

Host Colbert said that the track was “inspired by the current climate of the country, with a hopeful message to the youths.” In fact, the first message on the song came from the youth(s). On the show, a child in cowboy hat screamed, “This is Generation A, and we’re not gonna wait!”, before the band launched into the song, a bone-rattling synth-pop anthem that’s defiantly sure in its message.

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On ‘Everything Now’, the band chose irony and tongue-in-cheek mantras as the way to get their message across; on ‘Generation A’, they opt for the sledgehammer. “WAIT!” the band yell throughout, in between Butler’s prayers for times changing and better tomorrows. This sense of a desperate need for change – not waiting until it’s “too little too late,” while “California’s burning and New Orleans is waiting for the flood” – is transmitted with the band’s trademark gusto cranked up to the max. Anthemic guitars and spine-tingling gang vocals sit above a synth line that carries their message throughout. As a four-minute shot of hope on a dark and anxious night, it was pretty much perfect.

Arcade Fire are at their best when they become a rousing orchestra, greater than the sum of its parts and with the ability to make you feel anything is possible. On ‘Generation A’, this blood-and-thunder approach returns with a vengeance – and by God we need it right now.

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