Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
Arcade FireReflektor (Merge)
Promoted with a graffiti campaign, TV special, costumed secret shows, and enough advertising to blanket the Web, Arcade Fire sold the world on a defining album for our hyper-connected times, a pop-culture touchstone that draws a line in the sand between us and them. To quote Win Butler on the title track, "It was just a reflector." The Montreal sextet's double-disc fourth album sprawls an indulgent 85-minute opus that expands the band's scope in all directions at once. With co-producer James Murphy doing for New York what Brian Eno took from Berlin, Reflektor expands on the darker grooves of 2011's Album of the Year, The Suburbs, except with Caribbean rhythms. It works masterfully on the first disc, Vol. 1: the dub-noir of "Flashbulb Eyes," thrilling Carnival rush of "Here Comes the Night Time," and the transcendental disco of "Reflektor," complete with a David Bowie cameo. Vol. 2 lacks the same clarity and continuity. As a whole, there are throwaway tracks ("Porno") and overstayed welcomes (ambiguous anthem "We Exist"), Butler playing roulette with themes: the pains of indie rock ("Normal Person"), star-crossed Greek mythology ("Awful Sound [Oh Eurydice]," "It's Never Over [Oh Orpheus]"), and existential despair ("Afterlife"). Ultimately, Reflektor's about everything and nothing, leaving the listener awkwardly dancing in the dark, together alone, with no promise of a better tomorrow.