Review: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Dominic Kelly 2 November 2013

Back home, there’s a sticky nightclub floor littered with gaffer tape ‘X’s. Bar the unlucky in love singleton staring at his feet, the average collar- popped punter doesn’t tend to look at the boards their well-heeled feet shuffle on, so they go unnoticed. Turns out that after the lights flickered on and the crowd teeter-tottered home, the manager let two frustrated artist barmen rehearse their play in the early hours, the crosses marking points on their makeshift stage.

If a grotty nightclub seems an unusual, if subversive, backdrop for such a production, Arcade Fire juxtaposing their Greek myth concept album against newfound disco  and dub influences is downright bizarre. Reflektor is the band’s endeavour to break type and produce their most unconventional LP yet.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, The Wall and select others aside, traditionally, a double album is an 18 inch tall Stonehenge size mistake for a rock band. Reflektor’s running length could certainly do with a short back and sides, but the clear difference between its two halves justifies its two discs. This is exemplified by the album’s two renditions of ‘Here Comes The Night Time’. The first builds from its creeping, parade float paced beginning to a conga drum and jagged- guitar fuelled, Haitian carnival inspired climax. If this one burns down the disco, the second half’s version is more contemplative, like sitting atop Mont Royal watching the smoke rise from the decimated discotheque down below.

The band’s experimental efforts are so tantalising, I can’t help but wish they would push them further. The guitars on the live version of ‘Normal Person’ had a thick dollop of Daydream Nation-esque grunge scraped over it that the glossier studio version sorely lacks.The opening 30 seconds of the pretty but by-the-numbers ‘Joan of Arc’ is reminiscent of The New Pornographers;
a startlingly lo-fi respite from James Murphy’s intricate but highly produced and controlled tempest.

The twin songs ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’ and ‘It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)’ are undoubtedly the record’s highlights. The former ballad builds upon layers of reverberating vocals and shaking strings until the drums kick in, ultimately concluding with the band’s best ‘Hey Jude’ impression, swelling into a sky-obscuring wave of percussion before cutting out abruptly.

Perhaps the disco is the perfect place for theatre- love and loss, comedy and tragedy, actors standing at their points ready for their spotlight. It's not Achtung Baby or Kid A, Reflektor isn’t a career-defining record but proves its point – that Arcade Fire are one of those few bands that can drastically change their sound and still remain uniquely themselves, no matter the backdrop.