Arcade Fire - Reflektor (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S always good when a band can surprise you. Arcade Fire’s Reflektor does just that… and pleasantly so.
Abandoning their trademark rock sound in favour of a dance orientated collection of songs, the album draws cheekily on their influences while sounding resolutely original. It’s a disarming mix and a charming juxtaposition. And every bit as surprising and innovative as that of one of their biggest inspirations, David Bowie, who actually appears here (on the superb title track).
Indeed, opening proceedings with that former single, Reflektor, is a very smart move. It’s a massive track. Slick, synth-driven, Bowie featuring, intelligent yet light, you can easily dance but its themes are massive and indicative of what is to follow (death being prevelant, yet not always in a good way with lines like “if this is heaven, I don’t know what it’s for”). If you’re not hooked here, you probably won’t ever be.
We Exist is similarly smart. The bassline is a neat homage to Michael Jackson’s seminal Billie Jean but the hushed vocals and gigantic chorus are pure Arcade Fire. If they’re borrowing, they’re borrowing from the best and never blatantly so.
Occasionally, there are moments of self-indulgence. The final tracks on both CDs, Joan of Arc and Super Symmetry, take an age to wrap up without doing anything good (the latter, especially, drifts aimlessly towards its finale).
But you can forgive such excesses when the music is so generally superb. And that is a crucial point. For while so much contemporary dance material exists merely to put listeners or revellers into a state of braindead euphoria, this manages to induce maximum enjoyment while still offering something cerebral. You can exercise your brain while listening if you want to, or you can just let the rhythms take you.
Other highlights include the trippy Flashbulb Eyes (which nods towards Screamadelica era Primal Scream with a touch of The Clash in the guitars), Here Comes The Night, which reverts back to Bowie and mixes it with a vibe akin to The Beta Band, and You Already Know, which is possibly the most fun track on the LP, complete with handclap beats and a rhythm that owes more than a passing resemblance to The Cure’s Lovecats.
Moving onto the second CD, Awful Sound semi-impresses with its laidback first half, before unfolding into something more robust and equally ear-catching, before It’s Never Over blows you away with its brilliance (marrying melancholy with one of the best guitar riffs on the LP). There are touches of Prince in the falsetto vocals. But it’s the guitars that really make this one stand out, thereby offering some proof, too, that Arcade Fire haven’t abandoned their signature sound.
Porno is built around an insistent electronic hook (but slows the tempo back down to come over all edgy and sexy… even dirty), while Afterlife probes the chances of saving a marriage in emphatically upbeat style, with breezy background harmonies and slick beats again creating another neat contrast between the lyrics and the sound.
Put together, Reflektor is a mighty achievement, a damn fine listen and one of the year’s best albums.
Download picks: Reflektor, We Exist, Flashbulb Eyes, Here Comes The Night, You Already Know, It’s Never Over, Afterlife
- Here Comes The Night Time II
- Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)
- It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)