Once you conquered the world the choice of your follow-up-move becomes quite challenging. Everything is possible but the risk of losing it all gets bigger as well. In the case of ARCADE FIRE the concept of failure is one the group hasn’t discovered yet in the past decade. Ever since their 2004 debut Funeral became one of the most praised records of the past decade it really looks like the Canadian collective can’t do wrong. With every album they got bigger and bigger, winning Grammys as well as the hearts of critics and audiences worldwide. Every one of the three longplayers has been a masterpiece by itself – the expectations… well, saying they were ‘high’ would be a slight understatement. And if there is one band that doesn’t like understatement it’s ARCADE FIRE.
Album number four is called Reflektor and to cut a long story short, these god damn talented folks did it once again. Once again it retains the strength of previous output while also introducing new aspects into the microcosm of the Montreal-based band. In one of the rare promo interviews frontman Win Butler described the album as a mixture of legendary disco era club ‘Studio 54’ and Haitian voodoo culture. It’s as cryptic as it is fitting. With Reflektor ARCADE FIRE finally fulfil what 2010’s The Suburbs already hinted – they break down the walls, they open themselves up do discover a new world. And while they do they enrich their musical fundament with new influences and ideas.
Haiti and its unique culture played an essential role when the band was looking for a proper identity for their new album. While discovering the country of origin from his wife Régine Chassagne Butler found a new perspective on things in general and music specifically. A country that had to face various disasters in the past years and nearly lost it all. But the Haitian people haven’t lost their spirit, their beliefs and their hope. They keep their cultural heritage alive by celebrating in the ruins and celebrating carnival although not having much. It’s probably that feeling that encouraged Butler and Chassagne to open the music of their band up to a new understanding of rhythm and dynamic.
Reflektor remains as epic as previous output of ARCADE FIRE but it allows other aspects to join the idea as well. And what better way to introduce the band to dance music is there as hiring James Murphy to produce the album. Within the epic seven-minute long title track, which opens the album, you can already sense the presence of the LCD SOUNDSYSTEM mastermind. It’s such a cool groove but it still is as epic as previous songs of the band. Even long time supporter DAVID BOWIE can’t resist and provides backing vocals on this. Disc One of the new album is dedicated to the carnival, that much is for sure. From the smooth new wave groove of We Exist to the furious lo-fi rocker Normal Person and the catchy SMITHS-like You Already Know. The band is in the mood for tempo. But also for exotic dance beats. Flashbulb Eyes comes with a dub-like groove while the epic Here Comes The Night Time embraces the so called rara beat, the sound of the streets of Haiti. The first part of Reflektor marks the ‘coolest’ way ARCADE FIRE ever sounded.
In classical ‘Switch the vinyl so you can hear the second part’-tradition the second half of Reflektor presents the band from a more introspective and mysterious side. A bit more laid back, stuck in the in-between. This clearly is the part of the record that needs a few more spins to work for the listener. But you’ll get there and Porno really is a wonderful piece of music if you don’t mind the title. With the pumping Afterlife the band finishes with the obligatory epic pumping closer in the tradition of Rebellion (Lies) and No Cars Go. Might be a bit less symphonic but it’s hypnotic new wave groove is just too irresistible. Supersymmetry marks the reduced closing track which brings us back down to earth.
“When I here the beat my spirit’s on like a live-wire” sings Win Butler in Here Comes The Night. All in all this pretty much sums up the key message of Reflektor and ARCADE FIRE in 2013. Life’s still not good, but if you keep dancing, keep singing and keep living you’ll get through this. Reflektor might be the most ambitious album so far by the band. Partly a bit too over-ambitious in terms of length and ideas. It might be a bit harder to ‘get it’ than the previous albums. But if you give it a chance and open your mind who knows… in the end you might get a new perspective as well.