In 2011, a Montreal-based band called Arcade Fire sent shockwaves through the music industry when they won the Grammy for album of the year. Now, with the whole world listening, they make their boldest statement yet. It’s the most anticipated album of the year and maybe the most important. It’s Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor.”
“Reflektor” begins with the instantly classic title track that ignites the album’s first half. From the “Bille Jean”-inspired “We Exist” to the Gary Glitter glam of “Joan of Arc,” these are the band’s most straightforward, arena-ready tracks yet. Musically, “Reflektor” is dancier, worldlier and more fun than anything they’ve released before.
Win Butler and Regine Chassagne are having fun both on the record and off. They hyped the album release with a Saturday Night Live TV spot and with secret pop-up shows, sporting giant helmets along the way.
That being said, “Reflektor” is no joke. This is Arcade Fire’s biggest album at 85+ minutes and it’s also their biggest thematically, posing pretty deep questions about morality and God. “Reflektor” is not as consistent as “Funeral” and doesn’t reach the towering heights of “Sprawl II” or the title track on “The Suburbs.” The band also tends to repeat the same phrase over and over and call it a chorus. See “Here Comes the Night Time,” “You Already Know” and “Afterlife.” It may be too long, and Side B may be meandering at times, but Arcade Fire doesn’t care and neither do we. It’s that good.
“Reflektor” is one of the best albums of the year, along with “The 20/20 Experience,” “Modern Vampires of the City,” “Random Access Memories” and “Yeezus.” With all five, you have an already established group reminding us why we listened in the first place. These are all artists at the top, topping themselves.
In the same way that Kanye answered “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” with “Yeezus,” Arcade Fire’s answer is “Reflektor.” Both albums are polarizing and hard to get through, but neither Kanye nor Win and Chassagne care about what the fans think as much as making the music they want and need to make. This is an already universally acclaimed band faced with the challenge of staying true to their sound while reinventing it. This is their answer to their already towering achievements, and even if “Reflektor” isn’t as good as “The Suburbs,” it’s definitely bigger. Arcade Fire isn’t telling us they’re back and better than ever. They’re telling us they never left and they’re never going to.
With “Reflektor,” James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem is establishing himself as a serious, maybe even Eno-level producer, and Arcade Fire is strongly stating their place as the best rock band of the last decade. These guys have come a long way from “Where the Wild Things Are.” Arcade Fire is our generation’s rock band, not just for vinyl owners and people with beards, but for everyone.
Grade: A –
Standout Tracks: “Here Comes The Night Time,” “Normal Person,” “Reflektor,” “Awful Sound”