Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is a 1970s throwback

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For a while, Arcade Fire was touted to be the new saviors of rock ’n roll by the kind of people who claim that rock ’n roll is dead. But even the most ardent Arcade Fire fan can admit it comes off a bit too grandiose at times. The band can be earnest and hopeful enough to make up for it, though. 

To be fair, its debut album Funeral was a near perfect record and one of the best in the last 10 years. The band’s following albums, Neon Bible and The Suburbs, were just as impressive. After a couple of years off, Arcade Fire has returned to the mortal realm to deliver Reflektor, a complicated and overblown record loosely based off a Greek tragedy, which achieves greatness at times but does not sustain it throughout. 

Many will call Reflektor the band’s dance record, and while the record displays a sizable shift in style from the heavily Springsteen-influence of The Suburbs, a dance label isn’t entirely accurate. Featuring a good deal of production from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Reflektor is a throwback to a different element of  70s rock, citing David Byrne, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Reflektor finds the band taking more stylistic risks than it ever
has before. 

As a whole, Reflektor is a good album, albeit not the second coming of Funeral that everyone was holding out for. Some of these tracks stack among the best the band has ever written. The title track is a swirling odyssey of disco and stadium rock featuring backing vocals from David Bowie. It is one of Arcade Fire’s most exciting songs. Strong cuts including the astoundingly beautiful and grand “Afterlife,” are understated and dramatic with a steady groove that finds the band creating a lot of tension. “Here Comes The Night” is more fun than usual. The beat speeds up to an exciting dance number, building to a rousing finish before faking out the listener and going back to the steadier, almost reggae-like sound it began with. 

“Porno” works excellently as a dark and moody post-punk jam and is the only time listeners might think of Win Butler’s delivery as containing sex appeal. Among these tracks are plenty of forgettable ones that could have been cut, including “You Already Know,” “We Exist” or “Joan of Arc,” which is the only showcase of the sadly under-utilized Chassagne on vocal duties. 

The album is a risk in a stream of otherwise impressive records. On Reflektor, the band that always takes itself too seriously learns to cut loose a little bit.