Review: Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Published on October 30th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Reflektor is as monumental and intricately pieced together as is to be expected from an Arcade Fire album, the perfect balance of hooks aplenty, unabashed feeling and underlying eccentricity.
With LCD Soundsystem legend James Murphy on production duty, Reflektor revels in the freedoms afforded by an added electronic dimension. Heck, you could even dance to some of it.
The title track is kind of like a darkside “Heart of Glass”, an awe-inspiring verging-on-disco epic that builds into something akin to being serenaded by a campy Dracula before he drains your veins of blood and replenishes them with, somehow, boogie.
“We Exist” then struts in all “Billie Jean”-like and justifies its swagger with an almighty lift of a chorus, battening down our attention and goodwill so that we’re powerless to resist the Beta Band-ish groove of “Flashbulb Eyes” and fast/slow/fast/slow soca special “Here Comes the Night Time”.
Whatever Arcade Fire take on here, they smother it with their superior brand of ‘hands aloft’ anthemry and make it their own. As departures go, Reflektor is reassuringly reconcilable with former glories.
The aforementioned ‘hands aloft’ anthemry often, nay mostly, falls flat in the hands of those who can just about feel their way there but don’t really know what to do with it all when they arrive.
These acts – and there are many who shall remain nameless for now – could do with studying Arcade Fire’s knack for aligning grandness with great songwriting and all manner of distinguishing features.
Take “Normal Person”, which is illuminated by a startlingly incongruous but fantastically effective shriek of wonky high-pitched guitar that crawls all over its chorus like a grinning cartoon spider, unaware of the pulverising eruption of distortion that immediately ensues.
The track then subsides as a brass section arrives to survey the scene like an emergency service…aaaannnnd repeat! Awesome. Win Butler’s opening line of “Do you like rock and roll? / ‘Cause I don’t know if I do” proves instructive, insomuch as Arcade Fire set about reinventing it.
Is that Jonathan Ross’s voice at the beginning of “You Already Know”? *Googles it* Good golly, it is.
Side 1 – oh aye, it’s a double album, probably should have mentioned that earlier – concludes with “Joan of Arc”, which feels like it’s gearing up for a punky blast but settles into a “Spirit in the Sky” sort of swing, plied of course with a glittering array of Arcade Fire calling cards.
On Side 2, screeching cacophony swells up in the background of “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” before falling out for a Ringo-esque drum fill, the notion of Beatles cemented by a big “na na na” coda.
We also like to think of the screeching cacophony as an ethereal presence of Velvet Underground for these post-Lou Reed times, but of course that couldn’t possibly have been planned.
“It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” takes the form of utterly commanding disco-funk with grumbling, squelching synth bass that softens, submits and floats out to sea, while an air of unrest and unease filters upwards throughout the otherwise steady progression of “Porno”.
“Afterlife, god what an awful word” is another auspicious opening gambit, this time on the triumphant spiritual ascent of “Afterlife”. “After all the hangers-on are done hanging on in the dead light of the afterglow” it continues, but Arcade Fire’s limelight still burns the limeliest lime.
That would have been a nice way to end this review, so we’ll just mention that elating curtain-closer “Supersymmetry” becomes enveloped in fluttery strings and electronics, and scarper.
Some kind of conclusion is probably in order too, so here goes: Reflektor is, on reflektion (chortle!), another thoroughly magnificent Arcade Fire album. Did anyone really expect any less?
Reflektor is out now on Arcade Fire Music.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!