“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.
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.
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.