‘Who the f*$k is Arcade Fire?’ asked the internet after their Grammy win. But, despite the meme-LOLs it generated, it now seems a pertinent question. Because if ‘The Suburbs’ was all Springsteen-esque dreams of escape, ‘Reflektor’, with its arty sonic shifts, sees them become LCD-Talking Heads. Sprawling over 75 minutes (it really does not need to be that long) it’s a double album with two distinct halves – the first reverb heavy and groove based, the second darker and more plaintive.
The reason for this new sound has (obviously) been cited as James Murphy, at the helm on all but two songs. And the dancefloor vibes that opener ‘Reflektor’ hinted at are lived out on the dubby Haitian rhythms of ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ and ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ which sound like the band playing on a cruise ship at the end of the world. It’s only when they try straight up rock on ‘Normal Person’ and ‘You Already Know’ where the album sags.
The second disc is more like the night after the night before. ‘Awful Sound’ swells to a dramatic finish, ‘After Life’ builds beautifully on a nocturnal New Order synth line and it all ends with the warm electronic wash of ‘Supersymmetry’. Though Butler’s clunky lyrics can get in the way and not every experiment works, it’s refreshing that a band in their position is willing to take these risks. There are some wrong turns but, ultimately, the conviction with which they do it means ‘Reflektor’ wins the night.