After a thrilling furore of three outstanding albums, Arcade Fire return with a fourth pulsating, effervescent, mind-smashing head-whirl of an album: Reflektor. This is an album that definitely deserves to have the bass turned up hard.
Kicking off the the album, the title track is a great opener. The driving beats and electronic fervour thrust you through the track and continue into We Exist a dynamic, upbeat, ‘Billie Jean-esque’ bass. With the exception of Here Comes the Night Time, the first CD takes a slight mid-album lull. For me, some of the middle tracks like Normal Person and You Already Know don’t have quite the same ingenuity about them as earlier hits like We Used to Wait, No Cars Go and of course, Wake Up. The riffs are catchy, driving and upbeat, but lack the vigour of their previous albums. They err on the side of simplicity and repetition- not that this condemns a song, but they lack the grandeur and vivacity for me to buoyantly ride through the tracks. But perhaps this is because the rest of the album is so dominating that it casts a shadow on anything less than a 10/10 song. Nevertheless, the beginning and end of the first CD certainly pack a punch and swing you in full flow into the second CD.
This leisurely begins with an echo of Here Comes the Night Time – the echo theme characteristically reminiscent of their previous album The Suburbs. This CD is where Arcade Fire really delivers. The background strings, electronic verve and grandiose riffs chase after the sound which spawned in Neon Bible but really came into its own in The Suburbs. But without lingering in the past, Arcade Fire takes Reflektor in new directions. Keeping an electrifying, distorted blend of piano, strings and lyrics exploring childhood reminisces and the struggle to blend into society, their new album develops counter-rhythms, digital sounds and a throbbing bass. If anywhere, this culminates in my two favourite tracks: Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus). The former will be a great, anthemic success with the sounds of a dodgy VHS recording pulsating through the stadium; the latter… well, I think I’ve gone on enough about the riffs and the bass already so listen to it yourself- but listen out for when the brass replaces the synthesiser’s uplifting background motif- a magical moment. The album closes with the second half of the 11.17 minute Supersymmetry dissolving into a technological burble. It allows you to digest the splendour of the album and leaves the needle in the groove ready for their next venture.
What I like about Arcade Fire is their musical progression over the course of their albums. Reflektor has managed to brush shoulders with all three previous masterpieces, entwining itself most closely with The Suburbs, whilst also pushing out into fresh waters. This is definitely one hell of a listen and I bet it will be one hell of a show.
by Elizabeth Dunstan