Review: Arcade Fire | Reflektor





A few thoughts from my initial listen of Arcade Fire’s new album, Reflektor:

  • This doesn’t sound like Arcade Fire
  • They still sound appropriately over-dramatic
  • This. Album. Is. So. Long.

No, it doesn’t sound like other Arcade Fire albums.  They put the church they recorded up for sale after the roof collapsed.  Apparently God or the church itself didn’t much care for their music.  If it sounded like other Arcade Fire albums, I’d be writing about how it’s good, but not very innovative or that nothing about this makes it stand apart from Neon Bible or The Suburbs.

They’re from Montreal, Quebec.  They’re Arcade Fire.  If they weren’t appropriately over-dramatic, I would be writing about how different they sound and how that was an unnecessary change.  It would also mean that Arcade Fire were writing upbeat, happy folk-songs in major keys (hilarious), or that they had somehow gone inappropriately over-dramatic and have moved on to obscure performance art with the band screeching like seals while Win Butler sits cross-legged, sucking his thumb in the corner.  Instead, it’s Arcade Fire doing what they do best: “just right” dramatics.

I’m conflicted on the album length.  Stephen Thompson of NPR posed the question of the appropriate length of a concert (for my money, it’s subjective, based on music/artist/catalog) which had a comment from a reader that struck a note with me.  “If you’re watching the time instead of the band onstage that you paid to see, it’s probably too long.”  That makes sense.

My general belief is that if you’ve got enough material for two discs, you’ve probably gone too long between records.  I also understand that when producing anything, people can be streaky.  And with the number of musicians involved, it’s even important to capitalize on those productive streaks.  Still, if I’m ten or twelve songs in and I’ve already checked  a couple times to see how far I am into this record, it doesn’t speak well for the album itself.

However, there are two caveats.  First, I did not know it was a double-disc when I first started listening to it, because (my second caveat) I don’t buy CD’s anymore.  They’re ugly and unnecessary.  That’s on me for not educating myself beforehand.  So, not having the disc means I don’t have the opportunity of an intermission.  The time it takes to get up and change the disc is enough to give your mind a mental break, to know that you’re at the halfway mark and again, that there are two discs.  It’s a psychological break, even if it’s an arbitrary halfway point.

Here’s what you need to know about Reflektor:

Reflektor was produced by James Murphy, aka LCD Soundsystem.  If you didn’t like any of LCD Soundsystem’s music, you probably won’t appreciate the distinct influence he had on the band’s sound.  The beginning of ‘Normal Person’ is a perfect example with the poppy drumkit, the mini-narrative of Win Butler thanking an audience…it’s a little ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ than ‘The Suburbs.’

David Bowie does backing vocals on the title track.  As I said before, though, it’s about as much a David Bowie song as “Fame” was a John Lennon Song.  He improves the overall song, but in a very subtle way.

It’s really long.  It’s a significant time investment.  Even the songs themselves are jam-packed with multiple songs.  ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ shifts and turns so many times, that in the end I’m not really sure of a possible category.   For the record, I love it.  It’s sweet and hopeful and odd, and doesn’t really sound the same from one listen to the next.

By the end of the album, I’m a little worn out, if not a bit impatient.  So when you, Arcade Fire, drop an eleven-minute experimental-ish, brooding and existential crisis-having song, when you do that it makes feel like you crossed a line of self-indulgence.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s what a lot of music is, that’s why appreciate music and without a certain amount of it, no music would be released into the world.  It’s also what can make or break a song, or even an entire album.  That seems to be what a lot of people’s problem was with Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories.”  They did it for themselves and not at all for the fans.  It’s a fine line and it should be crossed from time to time, but if you’re going to cross it I’d at least appreciate more of a purpose than eleven plus minutes of
“Supersymmetry, supersymmetry
Ah, lalala lala
Ah, lalala lala…”

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