Arcade Fire – Reflektor (3/5)
Arcade Fire is back with their fourth LP, “Reflektor”. Unlike the gradual progression of their style heard across their last three albums, their latest offering is a significant departure from their usual brand of indie rock. The subtler genre explorations of the past that were made coherent by sensitive post-production have been shunned in favour of bold adventures in various musical directions: the first three tracks alone feature 80s pop, dub and Latin rhythms. Overall, this album does more to please new listeners than challenge them, leaving at a loss their earlier fans expecting their usual epic numbers laced with symbolism.
Indeed, the band have come close to altogether abandoning their previous sound: James Murphy’s production frequently pushes the band into unfamiliar territory. Although “Normal Person” and “It’s Never Over” have echoes of Arcade Fire’s earlier, grungier songs such as “Month of May”, “You Already Know” has a galloping rhythm reminiscent of the Smiths, whilst “Joan Of Arc” features compressed, shuffling Rock ’n’ Roll thuds worthy of the Dead Weather. Otherwise, the dry percussion and clean synth sounds heard on this seventy-five minute album emulate the kind of textures frequented by Metronomy.
Perhaps, though, the single heaviest influence upon Reflektor is the Talking Heads: there are plenty of muted sawtooth synths, eerie slower numbers and quirky lyrics throughout. Moreover, this album feels comparatively light-hearted in its dance floor orientation, so much so that any attempts to match the political commentary of Neon Bible would jar. Indeed, many of the lyrics on the disco numbers are too repetitive to be emotionally resonant. It’s left to the few songs that are spared over-production to invoke the nostalgic feel of previous albums.
Echoing Bright Eyes’ use of spoken-word samples in between tracks, Arcade Fire grant Reflector’s otherwise aloof sound a measure of the real world, but this comes across more as a gimmick rather than anything profound. Whereas the listener could pick apart meanings to slower numbers in previous albums, Reflektor’s narrative is simplistic and does little to offset the lethargic evolution of later songs in the album such as “Here Comes the Night Time II” and “Porno”.
The main attraction of this album is its novelty rather than its message: those expecting another album of consistent lyrical themes and swirling epics will be disappointed. Nonetheless, Arcade Fire will easily extend their appeal to a new audience with these songs – especially those on the dance floor – but it remains to be seen how they will serve their existing followers when crammed into muddy festival fields.
Images: NME, Arcade Fire