“Age of Anxiety I” by Arcade Fire
“Age of Anxiety I” is one of those kinds of songs that some of the more cerebral rockers, like Arcade Fire, tend to put out from time-to-time – one whose ultimate goal is to criticize the current state of society. Any of us could probably go on for hours about what we think is wrong with the world today. But in the instance of such a song, the vocalist is only afforded a few minutes. Thus the secondary goal of these tracks is to present, shall we say a well-worn subject matter in a unique and entertaining way.
In this case as presented, what we are currently living in is “the age of anxiety”. Anxiety is generally defined as a strong feeling of stress or fear. So by extension, what Arcade Fire is saying is that we’re living in a period of high-pressure and dread.
In the second verse, Win Butler seems to put forth that television addiction, if you will, is actually a means many people use to mitigate this pervasive feeling of anxiety. And so are drugs or more specifically “pills”. But as for the latter, the vocalist admits that they do not have the intended effect as far as his personal stress level is concerned.
Meanwhile, the third verse is the most-metaphorical part of the song. What the narrator seems to be saying there is that this anxiety we possess isn’t openly perceivable. Instead, it’s something that “we keep… inside”, not necessarily because we want to but rather due to the reality of the masses not fully respecting its existence.
Theoretically, taking the pre-chorus into consideration, what Win and Régine may be getting at as the source of the anxiety is a concept like media deception. And no, this is not in the sense of being tricked by fake news. Rather, we’re so connected – constantly absorbing the ideologies of the mainstream and others – that we lose ourselves along the way. Owing to this, life becomes a game of us projecting those ideologies as opposed to being true to who we really are. So basically, what the vocalist seems to be referring to is media socialization as being the main source of our anxiety – or something like that.
Indeed another thing about these types of songs is that they usually require a considerable amount of imagination and reading in between the lines on the part of the listener. But two ideas are definitively asserted in these lyrics, as respectively relayed in the main chorus and bridge. One is that the vocalist is in fact convinced that we’re “living in the age of anxiety”. And secondly, he very much wants to get said “spirit out of” himself.
Facts about “Age of Anxiety I”
This is a song that came out as part of Arcade Fire’s LP “We”, courtesy Columbia Records, on 6 May 2022.
“Age of Anxiety I” was written by the band’s founders, Win Butler alongside Régine Chassagne. It’s important to note that the pair have been married since 2003.
Butler and Chassagne co-produced this song with Nigel Godrich, a tenured engineer/producer.
To note, in 2021 Arcade Fire – which is rounded out by guitarist Richard Parry, bassist Tim Kingsbury and drummer Jeremy Gara – released a song titled Memories of the Age of Anxiety. But that piece runs for 45 minutes. It was created specifically for a meditation/sleep app known as Headspace.
Arcade Fire debuted this song at a benefit concert held on behalf of the war-torn Ukraine. The said event transpired in New Orleans in mid-March, 2022.
“Age of Anxiety I” is the opening track on “We”. And it is followed on the playlist by its successor, a song called “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)”. It wasn’t released as a single.