From one end of their career to the other, this is Reflektor, Arcade Fire’s fourth album from 2013, which was less an LP release but a multimedia marketing event, albeit one employing guerrilla tactics and cryptic teasers. It is very “Arcade Fire” in its presentation, not least coming in at 75 minutes (on the vinyl version), requiring it to be spread across two discs (the CD version is 85 mins), largely due to the hidden track at the end of Supersymmetry, though not exactly a secret song, but six minutes of rewinding tape.
There are 13 tracks, with an average length of 6 minutes, though most lack the defining ‘epic’ sound of many of Arcade Fire’s other classics, Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and Afterlife being a couple of exceptions. Apparently, they wrote up to 50 songs for this album and struggled to pare it down to a single album. This is where their co-producer James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem should have stepped in to help with the whittling process, but it seems he had the opposite effect. Like many overly-loaded or bloated double albums that should have been singles (Sign ‘O’ The Times being a notable exception), it would have been a better record with some tighter editing.
But overall it’s a worthy development of the Arcade Fire creative arc, and it’s very playful, clearly influenced by the Haitian carnival atmosphere of Regine’s background. It reminded me of the tribute parade they led through the streets of New Orleans for David Bowie a month after his death in 2016.
For me, Reflektor is the stand out track, not least because it features Bowie in a perfect supporting role, making the most of his distinctive yet alien voice, much like the backing vocals he did for TV On The Radio’s Province and Placebo’s re-release of Without You I’m Nothing.
Best Bits: Reflektor, and the sample of Jonathan Ross’s distinctive estuary vowels at the start of You Already Know
Genre: Overblown Indie Pop
Like This, Try This: David Bowie’s New Orleans Tribute Parade