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The fire is no longer raging...
on 29 October 2013
Fans worldwide have hotly anticipated this fourth album release from the mighty Montreal outfit. Having been a HUGE fan for coming up a decade, I held my breath for this date. There had been a lot of hype surrounding the release - the `secret' performances, the hidden `reflektor' graffiti appearing across cities, and the fact that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy was in charge of the production. So, was all this hype worth it? ... In a word, no.
Before dismissing me as `missing it', let me outline my argument as to why this album just doesn't add to the genius of Arcade Fire. To historically contextualise - `Funeral' was a freak of an album - just a one-off out of nowhere that was simply sublime. `Neon Bible' was a fantastic follow up and showed the maturity of the band, whilst `The Suburbs' (my personal favourite), beyond all expectation, again was/still is one of the albums of the decade.
Now, one of the reasons I have always liked AF is for their originality and ability to create truly melodic songs whilst constantly pushing the boundaries of song writing. Unfortunately, `Reflektor', whilst a change in direction, is essentially a collection of soundscapes and un-linear styles (i.e. disco backbeats, a bit of reggae, even some 70's rock influence). And this flux of styles has really robbed them of the groove and style that had become accustomed the unique `Arcade Fire sound' over the past 10 years. I completely respect that bands want to expand and develop their identity, style, and musicianship...but why such a drastic change?! And not only such a drastic change, but completely disjointed in it's orientation and direction.
I really have to agree with some of the other reviewers here, but would like to expand. The band received critical acclaim for `The Suburbs', and rightly so! But I fear that this new confidence is slightly, and I must emphasise slightly, bordering on arrogance. The average length of each song stands at around five-and-a-half/six minutes, and so much of this is dominated by the electronic experimentation. For example, I actually really like the final song, "Supersymmetry" - BUT the `song' is 11.17; yet it actually finishes around 5.30 - I just don't understand the need? The counter argument to this, I suppose, is that attempts to capture the ambience of the tone throughout the album. For me though, it just doesn't work.
This is really my primary gripe with the album. Whilst there are some decent tracks, I would have preferred it to have direction and continuity (i.e. why not let the title track set the rest of the tone for the album). I certainly appreciate that some will really enjoy this change in direction and that's completely fine. Sadly, I finished the album (twice) lamenting my old Arcade Fire. Before giving my review an unhelpful click, please remember that I have simply reflected (as a faithful AF fan) on my experiences so far with the new album and I am not offering an unjust critical assessment. Is it a bad album? - No. Is it a bad AF album? - A hesitant `no'. But it doesn't reach the heights or raise the bar of any of their other releases. Alas, I cannot sum it up any more than that.