There hasn’t been a new album introduction more eagerly anticipated (in what has been a very robust 2013 for new music) than Arcade Fire’s Reflektor. This even affected normally calm heads such as this writer who bought a CD on “pre-order” for the first time ever. I have followed the band ever since I first saw them on “Later, with Jools” with the first album “Funeral,” and they have never disappointed with their offerings. The world has become a bit wiser to the American-Canadian combination since their last album “The Suburbs” unexpectedly snagged a Grammy award in 2011.
I had already heard the new single “Reflektor” as well as “Afterlife” (more on that later), and then I made what I thought was a huge mistake; I religiously listen to BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable program every week, and wouldn’t you know it that they would have the panel review “Reflektor” before I even had a chance myself. I figured this would have jaded my opinion, especially as Gideon Coe felt that listening to the double album was a bit of “hard work.” So with all that up front, I was prepared to be disappointed.
How wrong I was.
Simply put, “Reflektor” may be the bands best work yet, and that is saying an awful lot. As a listening experience it provides one with all sorts of emotions to sort through, with a mixture of sounds that range from slightly disco (title track), to African influenced beats, to electronica. Enjoying it is a mesmerizing yet uplifting experience.
The title track seems to underscore the Fire’s uneasiness with their recent success, with the line; trapped in a prism/a prism of light…/alone on a stage/in the reflective age, that somehow they feel now they have been exposed to the musical mainstream. This would also explain the band’s decision to make appearances under the “Reflektor’s” name. As if they are trying to establish a new identity not as exposed to the world.
Tracks on the first CD such as “Here Comes the Night Time” and “Normal Person” highlight just how talented the band are in bringing different genres and influences into the same track. If there is one area where I’d agree with the professionals who reviewed it on 6Music is that a double album may not have been all that necessary, and some of the tracks do tend to linger on a tad longer than perhaps they should, but as an old Prog Rock guy I kind of like it that way.
For me, the gem of the entire double album is “Afterlife.” For those that have loved, lost, and repeated the process, this is a song for you. Lamenting the fact that when the love is gone in a relationship, you’re left in a state of afterlife, and what do you do when that happens? The song doesn’t offer any answers, but it powerfully describes the emotions that most of us at one time in our lives has been through.
While it’s a long listen as a double album, it is nonetheless a worthwhile trail through the emotions and immense musicianship of a band that is at the peak of its powers right now.
Go have a listen and decide for yourself.