On a wall of Arcade Fire’s New Orleans studio, photos map the territory of its sixth album, WE. On one side, images capture what ails us — a crushing boot, a wounded man, a child staring blankly at a screen. On the other side, joyous family pictures cluster. In the center, there’s a photograph of the cover of “We,” the 1921 sci-fi novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin, showing a crystalline skyscraper in which the citizens of a dystopia live under constant surveillance.
With an album already written, Arcade Fire started recording in February, 2020, but were interrupted by the start of the pandemic. Win & Régine spent the rest of that year and most of the next writing even more songs. “It was the longest we’ve ever spent writing, uninterrupted, probably ever" Butler said. Still, the resulting album — produced by Nigel Godrich, Win & Régine — is a concise 40 minutes long. Its first side, “I,” is about our troubles; its second side, “WE,” is about our love for one another.
On the album’s cover, a photograph of a human eye by the artist JR evokes Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. This stunning image -- embellished by the distinctive airbrush color tinting of Terry Pastor (utilizing the same physical technique he employed on David Bowie’s iconic Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust covers) – is the visual expression of WE.