Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Track Review: Arcade Fire - Reflektor

When popular musicians release albums under scrutiny and potential disapproval, a few internet memes occur. There's 15%, of course... And who can forget the incredible dickants from Gorillaz Plastic Beach. That same year saw the release of Arcade Fire's third album The Suburbs. There weren’t any cryptic messages or intense imagery like the above image. It was quite simply the third Arcade Fire album, with a theme, with a purpose. Gorillaz on the other hand, released Plastic Beach under the public eye. People were waiting for something epic, something worth waiting years for. They delivered a guest heavy album, but with some mediocre material. The hype leading up to Plastic Beach was incredible, marking it with 'most important release' status.  It’s incredible how far an audience can turn from A to B. If you get your promotion right and advertise accordingly, the hype is rendered a powerful tool. A weapon that can strike down critics with premieres, interviews, and advertisement. You have to hold our hands up for Arcade Fire's team; they’ve done a spectacular job promoting Reflektor without selling themselves short.

It's interesting that Arcade Fire have chosen to pre-release their self-titled track which includes unusual guest production and guest vocals. Arcade Fire have never done this, perhaps it's something that can be seen as a modern development in the alternative rock artist. However you decide to perceive the mind games behind "Reflektor", it's finally here and will make an appearance on Arcade Fire's fourth studio album of the same name. Excitement is high across the independent and popular circles. People actually know who Arcade fire are these days, they're the Hunter Games band right? The Grammy's band right?

James Murphy has produced "Reflektor", that’s not at all surprising if you're an LCD Soundsystem fan. The music portrayed in "Reflektor" is more "Sprawl II" than "The Suburbs". "Reflektor" isn't genre specific. Like many elements of Arcade Fire's past, they purposely leave doors and windows open to the listener to decide for themselves what it actually is they're listening to. Is it David Bowie singing? Yes it is, and if you're a Bowie fan, then you're most likely going to be aware of Arcade Fire's existence, better yet their friendship with the glam man.

Murphy's influence seems almost too important on "Reflektor". Arcade Fire's sound has been altered, a little too much actually. The drums have been swallowed, not allowing any natural reverberation. It's like all the LCD Soundsystem beats taken from Prince's Purple Rain. Butler's vocal is hardly recognisable, there’s no wailing like with the Neighbourhood series. Murphy has really pushed the disco genre here. As if This Is Happening wasn’t enough for him. 

I'm actually glad Bowie shows up on this track. Part of me wonders whether Murphy had Pharell on speed dial ready to come in and give a guest vocal... That's the way this year works right? Pharell needs to be on everything to make it disco-worthy. I won't be caught out calling "Reflektor" classic Arcade Fire, because it's far from it. Seven minutes of disco build-up, bongo drums and loud whispering vocals have never been imprinted in Arcade Fire's history. They're trying something different, taking their music direction somewhere they briefly touched with "Sprawl II" and "Half Light II". "Reflektor" is a success on the eye, on the ear... And it will be on the album too. I can see Reflektor being heavily influenced by Murphy's production skill and Bowie's 80s past. That's where we are today... Come November every critic will be talking about Reflektor in a positive manner, I can guarantee. Arcade Fire albums make lists, the way "Reflektor" has gone tonight, well; their upcoming fourth album will most likely be featuring on lists more often than not.

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