Arcade Fire
Reflektor


2.5
average

Review

by Lucid CONTRIBUTOR (17 Reviews)
October 26th, 2013 | 166 replies | 6,020 views


Release Date: 10/28/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A smugly ambitious, hour-plus blockbuster experience of slick grooves and toe-tapping indifference.

Of the bands that have attained "mainstream indie" status – The National, Bon Iver, Passion Pit, Phoenix etc. – Arcade Fire have reached the blandest incarnation of their breakthrough selves. Any heartfelt emotion and daring composition found in Funeral is missing from this decade's Arcade Fire, an observation solidified by the remarkably neutered Reflektor. The band’s ascendancy to Global Phenomenon has come with the desire to make music that can be played anywhere and enjoyed by everyone. They might have achieved that here: it’s hard to imagine a public setting that couldn't be soundtracked by these banal rhythms, or a social gathering ill-fit for such pointless lyricism. In streamlining their sound to the universal, Arcade Fire have created the most yawn-inducing major release of the year.

Reflektor is an eye-roller of a record, a smugly ambitious, hour-plus blockbuster experience of slick grooves and toe-tapping indifference. It's so plainly inoffensive that it flips that term to its antonym, made more infuriating by the crowd-pleasing "risks" and the critic-baiting "sonic variety." The game of deception they play is setting up a bunch of flashy distractions – "fake band" live performances, track lengths pushing 12 minutes, exotic Haitian instruments – to spruce up their wallpaper songwriting. Here's the gist of just about any song on Reflektor: a steady drum beat steers a groovy bassline and hook-laden guitars as James Murphy inserts 80's synth shimmers and a Haitain instrumentalist plays something ethnomusical and Win Bulter yelps about the night time/reflektors/death/fire/knowing/whatever. Skip to any point in the Youtube stream and you'll catch this template in action. Or play through the 85 minutes until you itch for an album that actually surprises.

It’s convenient that Reflektor is front-loaded, by which I mean that the best song is the opening track. "Reflektor" develops brilliantly: head-bobbing verses keep motion in spite of hairpin turn choruses, amounting to unpredictable travel through the post-disco rock voyage. The sentimental piano line leading the bridge brings true uplift, diffusing into an airy and liberated outro. It's a brisk seven minutes of tight and engaging construction; too bad the band isn't capable of upholding that standard over the lengthy runtime. "We Exist" follows and is strikingly timid. The slinky, dated bassline could have been lifted from a VHS porno; the steady drum beat seems to have no intent other than to simply exist. At least the space synths Murphy throws in add quirk to an otherwise meager track. "Flashbulb Eyes" doesn't fare any better, led by a xylophone twerking a silly melody and some reggae cultural appropriation. At this point I’m already tuning out the bloated murk that is Reflektor, in which cool ideas appear intermittently only to get lost in a sea of tedium.

The second disk offers pleasant tweaks to this lengthy tour, namely a more expansive, relaxed take on the Arcade Fire sound. Imagine "Wake Up" diffused into a free-form jam, the heart-swelling strings and group chants manifested with atmospheric intent. This self-effacement sort of corrects the background drift of the music; it falls into the subconscious with clear intent, rather than boredom leaving the mind to drift elsewhere. The production on some tracks (particularly "Afterlife") veers too close to LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, but Arcade Fire manage to retain their identity amidst the glimmering synth play. Murphy's background is best showcased on the closer: "Supersymmetry" is great, arena rock turned cosmic through orbiting synths and a hypnotic dissolution into space. It’s an accomplished track that matches the focus of "Reflektor," but after 66 minutes, it doesn't carry enough strength to elevate this release.

Arcade Fire are vying for the Rock Hall of Fame with Reflektor, presenting a "beast" of a record that self-congratulates as often as it avoids offense at every turn. Its personality is defined through the impersonal, the detachment of a rock act driven by hubris rather than the need to intimately connect with its listeners. Underneath the flashy effects, the accolade-baiting, the self-indulgence, there's no actual soul to this record. That might not faze you, but for a band once praised for their heartfelt and empathetic music, that certainly fazes me.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



48540 Comments


It's like 74 minutes not 2 hours buddy wow you must really hate this if it feels like 2 hours

Digging: The Hotelier - Home, Like NoPlace Is There

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lol 2 hours long

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

also how can they be a bland imitation of their debut selves when they sound almost nothing like they did on Funeral?

someguest
October 25th 2013



18878 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

I had sex for *two hours last night



























*5 minutes

Digging: BABYMETAL - Babymetal

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

honestly the review reads as though you like this more than a 2.5 but you feel betrayed by the album to some degree so you have to 2.5 it?

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



6959 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The Youtube stream is 1:25:16 so my mind said that's two hours. edited lol

Digging: Wild Beasts - Present Tense

demigod!
October 25th 2013



40970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Here's the gist of just about any song on Reflektor: a steady drum beat steers a groovy bassline and hook-laden guitars as James Murphy inserts 80's disco shimmers and a Haitain instrumentalist plays something ethnomusical and Win Bulter yelps about the night time/reflektors/death/fire/knowing/whatever. Skip to any point in the Youtube stream and you'll catch this template in action.



I like Arcade Fire but this kinda sums up their career lol

pos

avonbarksdale221
October 25th 2013



7013 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The review is well written, pos.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

you can sum up most bands careers like that

"Here's the gist of just about any bomb the music industry song: a programmed drumbeat with sloppy guitar riffs and incoherent stammering while jeff talks about being poor and lonely"

took half the space to sum up a band I think we can all agree is much more than that

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



6959 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

also how can they be a bland imitation of their debut selves when they sound almost nothing like they did on Funeral?

I switched that up. I meant that their current incarnation is blander than that of the other listed acts.

Uranium
October 25th 2013



6633 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is better than suburbs and that makes me happy

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



14492 Comments


'reflektor' sounds like some cheesy 80's sci-fi flick with arnie in it

Digging: Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus

MassiveAttack
October 25th 2013



2684 Comments


Well written Lucid, pos bud.

Rowan5215
October 25th 2013



20092 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Impressions from halfway through my first listen:
-title track is a grower but they could've actually used Bowie rather than wasting his appearance
-We Exist is shit
-Here Comes the Nighttime, both parts, are sweet

Frippertronics
October 25th 2013



4382 Comments


man, a lot of people don't like this. the second half is better, although after t/t, the first half is lacking for me. the average for this is about right though.

Digging: Big Nig - Marque un: le point de vue de nigs rsum

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2013



9470 Comments


Nice review, dude! Always nice to see a Lucidity review around these parts. I don't think I can be bothered to give this album a listen.

the impressively neutered Reflektor.

Impressively neutered? I get the gist of what you're saying, but it does read a little unclear.



Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

Rowan5215
October 25th 2013



20092 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Also I wish they used the female vocalist more because she's a lot more interesting than the male one

(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor
(it's just a reflektor) just a reflektor


Frippertronics
October 25th 2013



4382 Comments


dude, it's bowie. he forced the band to put him the song.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2013



6959 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Impressively neutered? I get the gist of what you're saying, but it does read a little unclear.

just being a little snarky there. I'll make it more straightforward

Rowan5215
October 25th 2013



20092 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

spoiler alert: Bowie is actually Arcade Fire



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