Released 28th October on Merge Records
Rock/ Alternative/ Experimental
Darlings of the experimental/alternative/hipster scene Arcade Fire are back with a fourth record. Two discs full of pumping bass, distortion, disdain, and cleverly balanced pop and noise with a large debt owing to the late seventies and early eighties work of David Bowie; pretty much exactly what I was expecting when I came into this record really. I’m certainly not one to believe the hype when it comes to this sort of artistic abstraction (as you may well know), but I’ve got to say that with Reflektor I was actually rather much further away from disappointed then I anticipated.
In fact, coming into with such a wary feeling due to being conned by so many similar bands previous I was actually pleasantly surprised by the intelligence that’s gone into this piece of work and the lack of pretentious pandering. The bass lines churn out some sort of underplayed disco, the vocals have a disaffected soul quality, and the guitars and synth provide atmosphere more than real melody. Yes, it’s derivation, but these guys actually know where their influences lie (and probably everyone else’s by the sounds of it), and they use the very fact of unashamed derivation to their full advantage.
They realize that pop music has been hashed and rehashed in the same ways for pretty much the last fifty years, and they’re not afraid to just rehash it all again, but with a knowing wink floating through the background noise the entire time. They are not so much breaking anything like Sonic Youth tried to all those years ago, but maintaining each and every cliché and trope and make it clash in such a way as to exemplify the hollowness that pervades most pop music today.
I mean, the way a track like Here Comes The Night grinds out its melange of musical influences is just wonderful to hear. Indie dance beats overlayed with some of the most bored sounding vocal delivery I’ve heard in a while and the groaning bass sounds one might have expected from Throbbing Gristle all leading up the simple yet warped reggae hook. It’s postmodernism at the point where it actually becomes listenable.
Like most other releases that proffer themselves as works of art, however, Reflektor does have the familiar downside of running on for much longer than is necessary. I mean, two discs were not warranted when the point has been made by halfway through the first one, and studio mistakes and sonic buildup are great to add texture to the music, but when almost nothing runs under five minutes it might have been better to make a couple of small sacrifices.
Still though, Reflektor might just be the best post-modern genre-fuck since The Clash’s London Calling. It knows what it’s doing, and it does it well. Not to mention they don’t even give a fuck whether you think they’re clever or not. They know that they’re smarter than Radiohead and more listenable, so they don’t have to go the route of unjustified pretension.
So, in conclusion I’ve got to say that Arcade Fire have finally won me over to their side with one of the most intelligent records that has come out this year. I don’t even care that they rip off The Smiths so much.
- New Music: Arcade Fire – Reflektor (tenderlentil.wordpress.com)
- Review of Arcade Fire’s Reflektor (windupwire.wordpress.com)
- Album Review: Arcade Fire – Reflektor (musicfactorynumberone.com)
- ‘Reflektor’ – Arcade Fire (nobodycaresellie.wordpress.com)
- Arcade Fire pays tribute to Haiti on new album (bigstory.ap.org)
- Listen to Arcade Fire’s Reflektor now! (kexp.org)
- Arcade Fire (independent.com)
- New Music Video – Arcade Fire “Afterlife” (thescenestar.typepad.com)
- Colbert Insults Arcade Fire, Band Plays Two Songs as the Reflektors Anyway (spin.com)
- Arcade Fire – Reflektor (loudneighbormusic.com)