Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arcade Fire: "Reflektor" (album review)

Few Canadian artists have enjoyed the kind of widespread success (and near-universal critical acclaim) as Arcade Fire.  The band capped it all off with an unexpected Grammy win for their last album, The Suburbs.

Now the band have returned with Reflektor, a record that faces the daunting challenge of following-up a massive hit.

If that's your yardstick, it's hard to view Reflektor as anything but a failure.  Where Funeral dug its tendrils into your brain and The Suburbs wrapped a blanket of sound around your head, Reflektor does neither.  The self-indulgent 52-page booklet should've been the first tip-off.

The more electronic flavour of the album is at the expense of its soul.  The slashing disco of the title track makes it impossible to embrace.  "Flashbulb Eyes" verges on recent Flaming Lips territory, meaning it's a pulsating mess.

Even flickers of promise are snuffed out like a wick.  The uncharacteristic punk-influenced guitar on "Joan of Arc" sadly ends almost before it begins.  The frantic start of "Here Comes the Night Time" quickly settles into a down tempo rut.

The most surprising aspect of Reflektor is not that the band veers off in a different direction (we'd actually expect nothing less from Win Butler & co.), but rather just how dull much of it is.  Tracks like "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" and "We Exist" are pedestrian numbers that lack the vibrant sheen of the band's previous work.

The album isn't a complete wasteland however.  The electronics on "Porno" make it extremely challenging to avoid bopping your head.  "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)" has a propulsive drive that picks you up and whisks you along with it.  The delightfully ominous "Normal People" grows into a whirlwind frenzy.

People who are expecting another masterpiece in Reflektor are certain to be incredibly disappointed.

Best tracks: "Porno", "Normal People"

Track listing for Reflektor:
  • Reflektor
  • We Exist
  • Flashbulb Eyes
  • Here Comes the Night Time
  • Normal Person
  • You Already Know
  • Joan of Arc
  • Here Comes the Night Time II
  • Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)
  • It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
  • Porno
  • Afterlife
  • Supersymmetry


Anonymous said...

I think you need to listen to this album a few more times.

Unknown said...

That's often the case with Arcade Fire albums. I don't think it's going to help this time though.