The rock band Arcade Fire has returned with its first music in five years: a raucous six-minute single entitled “The Lightning I,II.” The single is the first release from the band’s upcoming sixth album: We, out May 6.
Arcade Fire has been one of the most consistently acclaimed rock bands over the last two decades, churning out stadium-scale, guitar-centric singalongs in an era in which rock has waned in influence and cultural primacy. “The Lightning, I, II” is no different: it’s lifted by soaring piano melodies, thundering tom-tom drums, and lyrics emphasizing perseverance in the face of struggle. “Thought we reached the mountaintop / and now we just feel so low,” lead singer Win Butler despairs in the song’s second line, before adding later, “We can make it if you don’t quit on me / I won’t quit on you.” (The band infamously snagged Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys, beating out Lady Gaga and Eminem in a surprise win.)
Arcade Fire debuted the song live earlier this week at a benefit concert in New Orleans for Ukraine. The song’s music video was directed by Emily Kai Bock, who co-directed Grimes’ canonical “Oblivion” music video a decade ago. In this new video, the band’s performance of the song becomes derailed by heavy winds; a tornado emerges in the distance, bearing down upon them. After the storm subsides, the band re-emerges, picking up shards of their instruments and throwing a party amidst the wreckage.
In an accompanying press release, the band wrote that sessions for the forthcoming album We began in February 2020, right before the start of the pandemic. “Its first side, ‘I,’ is about our troubles; its second side, ‘WE,’ is about our love for one another,” the press release states. We, a dystopian sci-fi novel by the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, served as partial inspiration.
The album was produced by Butler, his bandmate (and spouse) Régine Chassagne, and Nigel Godrich, a producer known for his work with Radiohead and Paul McCartney. Peter Gabriel sings on the album; the cover was created by photographer (and frequent TIME collaborator) JR.
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