Most helpful critical review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Arcade Fire - Indulgence and Innovation
on 28 October 2013
Anyone approaching this album will already be struck by the mixed press it has received. Pitchfork call it "An Event--an album that dares to be great, and remarkably succeeds". On the other hand Drowned in Sound ruefully reflects that here we see "a potential candidate for album of the year wither away into the dust of disappointment". The weight of expectation around "Reflektor" has been enormous. Arcade Fire is one of the best things to happen to rock music and with every anticipatory fibre in your being you want them to succeed. A double album of their music produced by LCD Soundsystem retired genius, James Murphy? What a prospect, the Gods of music must have conspired to produce such a great pairing. Sadly the reality does not live up to the billing.
1. It is too long - there are a limited number of genuinely worthwhile studio doubles that stand the test of time. "Blonde on Blonde", "London Calling", "Something/Anything", "Physical Graffiti", "Sign of the times" and "the White Album" (although George Martin thought it would make a better single LP) spring to mind. Others fall into a different category that the production of a much tighter single album would have been the better course of action. Think "The Wall", "Speakerboxx/The Love Below", "The River", "1999". "Layla" and "Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". As it stands "Reflektor" feels like an album that falls in the latter camp not the former.
2. The question of filler - The issue of the 10 minute "Hidden Track" on this album is the most obvious example of studio nonsense that Murphy and the Butlers should have left on the cutting floor. But why in a superb song like the closing "Super symmetry", the first half of which is sheer beauty writ large, is the listener subjected to a concluding five minutes of tape loop? Where is that old band that would have taken this to a shattering brilliant crescendo? Similarly songs like "Its never over" start fine but take an age to fade out like a pale impression of the storming Arcade Fire of old.
3. Side One casts a large shadow on Side Two - The single "Reflektor' is brilliance. It is one of the best things the band has ever done. This reviewer cannot stop playing the Fripp like rhythms of the stunning "Normal Person" notably one of the album's shorter tracks. The sheer inventiveness of "Here come the night time" hugely impresses with its refrain of "if you want to be righteous get in line" and builds to a great finish. Similarly, you could drop the pounding "You already know" and excellent "Joan of Arc" into any Arcade Fire album and they would push up the quality meter. If "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" could have been placed in this disk then job done.
The album finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. You sense for the band that it has been a labour of love and that cutting any part of it would have been viewed as an act of butchery (particularly as Win butler has highlighted that some 50 songs were recorded in these sessions). Yet for the listener the nagging feeling prevails that "less would have been more" haunting this record throughout. Thus, the fault line for Montreal's finest is an unwillingness to edit down two discs into a killer single record. Despite this observation when this record does fire on cylinders, it is a true wonder and reminds you that an off-kilter Arcade Fire produces more energy than most of their illustrious contemporaries. In short "Reflektor" is a good record that could have been a great one.