ALBUM REVIEW: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Reflektor artwork
Reflektor artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Arcade Fire

ALBUM Reflektor

LABEL Merge

RELEASE DATE 29 October 2013

9.3 | 10

There’s a moment on Arcade Fire’s new album where lead singer Win Butler sings, “Seems like a big deal now / But you will get over.” After the exhaustive pre-album hype machine, hearing those words from the main architect behind Arcade Fire is rather refreshing. The marketing campaign that preceded Reflektor was a spectacle one would expect from Lady Gaga or Drake, but coming from a band that defined indie ethos for the good part of a decade (Funeral turns 10 next year), it was a little jarring. It led to a perceived lack of self awareness on the part of Arcade Fire, but those fears are laid to rest with their phenomenal fourth LP.

The band has never felt so vibrant on record, starting with the lead single/title track and leading to “We Exist” and beyond. Butler’s wife and fellow bandmate Régine Chassagne’s Haitian upbringing has never been such a strong reference point for the band, yet “We Exist,” and the majority of the album’s first half is indebted to Haitian rara music rhythms, as it has a type of buoyancy unfelt in an Arcade Fire track before. “Flashbulb Eyes” is perhaps the most left-field the band goes, while “Here Comes The Night Time” does as good of a job as “Doin’ It Right” in getting it’s audience to dance. The staccato piano notes aren’t so much jarring as they are magnetic, pulling the listener further down the rabbit hole with the band.

While Reflektor has been described as “Arcade Fire goes dance!” it’s shockingly their biggest throwback to old school rock ‘n roll yet, too. “We Exist”’s halfway point is accented by a guitar riff that recalls the apocalyptic tone of The Rolling Stones’ masterpiece “Gimme Shelter.” On the slinky “Normal Person,” the song thematically is reminiscent of The Doors’ “People are Strange,” while it’s execution is more in line with classic Pixies. It’s hard charging guitar riff and Butler’s whispered hysteria as he sings “look at those normals go” makes it just as much of a detour for the band as the second half’s “Porno.” Over a seductive synth line that recalls late-era Pink Floyd, Butler sings, “You can cry / I won’t go / You can scream / I won’t go / Little boys with their porno.” The song is a refreshing take on the overt sexualization of women in our culture, with Butler later singing “And boys they learn / some selfish shit / Until the girl / won’t put up with it.” For those looking at how parenthood would affect Butler’s lyrics, look no further.

In addition to the multiple highlights, the band hit a low spot for themselves on “You Already Know.” The song is the first time the band has truly sounded as if they were rehashing old ideas, as it’s melody comes straight out of The Suburbs’ playbook. But later on the album’s second disc, when they reprise “Here Comes The Night Time,” the new direction of the song is a refreshing deviation on the euphoric part one. “Here comes the night time, again,” Butler sings, this time a lot more wistfully. “You hurt yourself again / along with all your friends,” he later sings, growing weary of life’s cyclical nature.

With Reflektor, Arcade Fire and collaborator (and one time LCD Soundsystem frontman) James Murphy have created one of the more audibly diverse records of 2013. Instead of this new direction coming off as a novelty act, the work of a band with no new ideas trying to cover that fact with bleeps and bloops, this new sound is the best possible outlet for some of Arcade Fire’s freshest ideas to date. They are no longer a possession solely of indie tastemakers; that much was made clear after The Suburbs debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and scored a Grammy for Album of the Year. But whereas other bands have used their newfound fame to tragic results, Arcade Fire is still making music solely for themselves. We’re just lucky to be caught in the wake.

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3 thoughts on “ALBUM REVIEW: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

  1. There’s a reference in the Reflektor track that’s haunting me. It’s probably very well-known recognizeable but I can’t pull it out of my memory. It’s the music that goes with the connector lyric. Any ideas?

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