For Fans Of
In their transition from the demure stylings of debut ‘Funeral’ – released almost a decade ago now – to the indie rock powerhouse on the Grammy Award-winning ‘The Suburbs’, to the art pop aesthetics present on new album ‘Reflektor’, Arcade Fire have always felt compellingly distinctive. On ‘Reflektor’, the Montreal ensemble aim unsurprisingly high. Shooting for excitement while falling just short of the mark, album four starts with a spark of brilliance but drags on without being able to sufficiently hold interest.
Feet firmly planted in dance territory, the album kicks off with its title track and lead single feeling altogether bold. Slick bass and pounding, confident drums punctuate driving synths and sweeping strings. Husband and wife duo Win Butler and Régine Chassagne’s dual vocals are sublime, and a brief vocal cameo courtesy of David Bowie, no less, make it a confident and more importantly engaging opener.
As we manoeuvre into the undeniably disco environment of ‘We Exist’ and ‘Here Comes the Night’, the band move firmly into their groove, shedding old skin and proudly demonstrating the shimmery electronic pop finesse they’ve been waiting for years to reveal. Lead under the guiding hand of producer James Murphy, (best known as the mastermind behind LCD Soundsystem) there’s enough curious idiosyncrasies that there’s rarely a dip energy until the album’s second disc, which feels like more of a chore.
One could minimise a lot of the issues on ‘Reflektor’ down to the band’s choice to release it as a 75-minute double album rather than trimming the fat and keeping it a succinct affair. Rather than the grand, sweeping vision Butler and co. attempt to realise, we’re left with tracks that feel less like an intentionally juxtaposed artistic move and more like guests that have turned up to a party moments after everyone’s decided to leave. No doubt each track was a thoroughly laborious effort, but after such a powerful first half there’s simply not a whole lot left to give; and certainly not to tracks that feel not only drawn out, but almost completely void of danger. In saying that, there are a handful of moments on disc two that knock it out of the park entirely. ‘Afterlife’ is a cathartic, empowering number while final track ‘Supersymmetry’ brings the album to a close with grace.
Arcade Fire are a band that seems set on doing things their way, which can often lead to both their greatest flashes of brilliance as well as their most tedious. ‘Reflektor’ has both – almost split down the middle – and if you can take the entire listen in one it’s ultimately a fairly rewarding listen.
2. We Exist
3. Flashbulb Eyes
4. Here Comes the Night Time
5. Normal Person
6. You Already Know
7. Joan of Arc
8. Here Comes the Night Time II
9. Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)
10. It’s Never over (Hey Orpheus)