Published on November 14th, 2013 | by Mike Conlon0
Arcade Fire: Reflektor
Despite an ever-fragmenting musical landscape, an Arcade Fire album release can still galvanize music fans of all stripes to unite and listen. Whether or not you like the band, you’re expected to be versed in their catalogue. In their latest release, ‘Reflektor,’ Arcade Fire have teamed up with producer James Murphy (yes, that James Murphy) and put out a double album that justifies their hype. The album wears its musical influence on its sleeves — you don’t have to listen too closely to hear reverberations of The Replacements, Brian Eno, Bowie, U2, and others — yet at the same time it transcends these influences. From first listen it’s clear that this record is an immediate classic.
In ‘Reflektor,’ the stakes are always high. The album explores loneliness and connectedness in today’s hyper-connected world. Its lyrical musings often directly or obliquely refer to the Greek myth of Orpheus. In less talented hands, such references to Greek mythology might seem pretentious, but the band pulls it off.
‘Reflektor’ kicks off with a track of the same name that features David Bowie, 7 and half minutes of pure groove awesomeness. This opening cut quickly introduces the album’s primary focus, life “in the reflective age.” Yes, ‘Reflektor’ is a concept album, like (arguably) every previous Arcade Fire album. Fortunately, the album’s thematic concerns never get in the way of a killer jam, as tracks like ‘We Exist’ and ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ will attest. ‘We Exist’ sounds like the band rescued it from the 80s, and imbued it with their distinct brand of austerity. ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ is my favorite track. Frontman Win Butler has been quoted as saying, “If you can get James [Murphy] tapping his foot, you know you’re on the right track.” I’d bet that Murphy was tapping his foot on this one.
On their last tour, Arcade Fire spent time in Haiti, where they picked up some of the island’s musical stylings. Nowhere on the album is the Caribbean influence more apparent than on ‘Here Comes the Night Time.’ Butler has described the track as a “hybrid of Haitian rara and Jamaican influence.” From glam rock, to new wave, to dub and reggae, ‘Reflektor’ explores a variety of musical genres, yet maintains a clear sense of unity. This is more than a solid album, it’s greatness.