CD review: Arcade Fire’s latest is too much and not enough

Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Arcade Fire Reflektor

Arcade Fire’s artistic vision is almost as grandiose as its music, and with fourth album Reflektor the Montreal indie rockers have outdone themselves. Pre-release promotions included guerrilla advertising, secret shows under an assumed name and a surprise TV special after Saturday Night Live.

Co-produced mainly by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Reflektor’s two discs have distinct personalities. The first is focused more on rhythm and groove; songs dabble in dub reggae (“Flashbulb Eyes”), sweaty bar-band blues (the guitar freakout “Normal Person”), bubblegum disco (“Joan Of Arc”) and Smiths-y strum (“You Already Know”). The more subdued second disc is stacked with faded orchestral arrangements, eerie puddles of atmospheric synths and humming digital beats—major inspirations include Peter Gabriel and New Order—with the occasional sax skronk (“Afterlife”) and ’70s glam ballad (“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”) adding spice.

Although Reflektor’s songs often cry out for an editor—the majority cross the five-minute mark—their variety and level of detail mitigates most musical shortcomings. Unfortunately, the lyrics lack that same depth. Save for a pair of lovely songs that explore the boundaries of faith and modern romance via Greek mythology’s Eurydice and Orpheus, the album is full of recycled musings on being an outsider or unlucky in love, or grappling with death. Even worse are its clunky phrasings. “You Already Know” actually rhymes “bad” with “sad.”

Arcade Fire has never lacked ambition, but its limitations as a band seem more pronounced on Reflektor. It’s an occasionally brilliant and deeply weird record that ultimately feels flawed.

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