Since Daft Punk already went disco with the blissful and ubiquitous "Get Lucky" earlier this year, when Arcade Fire released the groovy first single from their new album, "Reflektor," many people rolled their eyes and said that the band was "riding the disco wave.
But, really, nothing could be further from the truth. What the listeners didn't realize is that it is downright miraculous - nearly on the level of Big Bang improbability - that Arcade Fire happened to be in on any popular impulse.
I mean, we are talking about a band that wages war with technology in every breath and recorded its second album in a church. Arcade Fire wants to live in any time but now and even went so far as to travel to Haiti to get away from everything before recording this new record.
A second video released by the Arcade Fire for their new track, “Reflektor,” from the album of the same name, includes people in paper mache heads made to look like those of the band’s members.
Needless to say, the band is not trying to be a popular anything and that is proven by the fact that their new music is a double album, complete with brief, spoken word interludes and several tracks over six minutes long, one extending to 11 minutes. It's an ambitious project worthy of a '70s classic rock band but something that makes no sense in the 21st century. Who wants an 11-minute track clogging their stream? True, one can say the band has been pushing their album pretty hard with appearances on "SNL" and the "Colbert Report." So, how obscure can they really want to be? But I would argue that wanting your record to sell is different from trying to be popular. Sure, they want to promote the record - they want the television spots and Rolling Stone articles, but they definitely don't want to be Fun. (the band).
The good news is that the album fulfills any promise the Canadian group has ever made. It's certainly Arcade Fire's most daring and interesting project and easily surpasses "Neon Bible" and bests "The Suburbs," two albums I adore.
Even if it can't eclipse "Funeral" (but what can?), it certainly doesn't need to. I would venture to say that it's a more intriguing listen right now simply because there's so much going on. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who produced "Reflektor," has loosened the band up in the best way, helping them to submit to the beat more than the editorial instinct.
Yeah, these songs are really long, but the band's having so much fun and trying so many things, why would we want it to stop?
The experimentations are instantly palpable in the groove of "We Exist," which, for a most recent reference, is reminiscent of Ariel Pink's "Round and Round," but really it sounds like a '70s dance track.
Then there's the lasers in "Flashbulb Eyes" and that odd reverberating sound in "Here Comes the Night Time" that gorgeously fights with a track that otherwise would be a very standard (and, of course, pretty) Arcade Fire song. "Normal Person" has a thrilling, Yo La Tengo-like, searing guitar and "Joan of Arc" begins with a punkish grind unlike anything in the band's catalogue before segueing into Neil Young-like grunge rock. But somehow, through all the wild slinging, everything still sounds like Arcade Fire.
They've made leaps and bounds in progressing their sound but haven't lost any compositional effectiveness, which can only mean that the record is a resounding success.
One critic mocked Win Butler's earnest lyrics in "Flashbulb Eyes," which say "What if the camera really do take your soul?" They couldn't believe that he'd be honestly asking this question and even worse, that he wants us to take him seriously. But I love that these are the things he's reflecting about.
He's thinking about how the sea of cell phones performers look at in the crowd now are like reflectors, like mirrors - black mirrors maybe? And he's always worrying about how all of this affects our souls. He asks, "If there is no music in heaven then what is it for?" You may sigh and roll your eyes, but I say, "Good question."