While not quite at cavity-search levels, there is a bemusing level of security surrounding the fourth Arcade Fire LP. Reflektor is possibly seen as an early Christmas gift for the record industry, with the hype machine rumbling weeks ago via mysterious graffiti mushrooming up around the world. By the end of 75 minutes in the album’s company, however, you can only conclude that Win Butler and co are something very special indeed. Following The Suburbs’ chart victories, the Canadian collective are using the buffer to way fare, feeding their trademark power and breadth with pulsating electronic rhythms and glitchy sonic bacteria, courtesy of DFA sultan and band chum James Murphy.
Don’t panic – most of what we’ve come to know the group for is still intact. That widescreen sound is all over ‘We Exist’ and the eight minutes of surging fuzzed funk and Bowie backing vox that comprise the title track. However, much has been thrown at the canvas, not all of it complimentary. ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ is a dubby dud of a thing and ‘Here Comes The Night’ is like something discarded by a mid-range R’n’B producer, ambling through clattering saloon piano, pounding samba and peripheral bells and whistles. Then it’s time for ‘You Already Know’ which is bookended with Jonathan Ross samples. Yes, that Jonathan Ross.
By the second half, however, Arcade Fire’s sheer conviction – their greatest weapon – is edging the debate. A spasm of punk riffing greets ‘Joan Of Arc’ before settling into a new-wavey electro stomp, and the bassy chill of ‘Awful Sound’ is almost Bowie in Berlin (almost). Stars remain aligned during the unhurried ‘It’s Never Over’ where trembling soundscapes are delicately layered. Lyrically, it’s business as usual – paranoia, Armageddon and childhood dreams disintegrating (“Makes me feel like something’s wrong/it’s the only world we know,” Butler yelps to ‘Porno’’s subzero disco).
‘Supersymmetry’ takes its sweet little time to drift off into the stars, closing off Arcade Fire’s most ambitious, daring and downright danceable collection yet. Rough patches are present (as on every AF release) but if we strip away the anti-stealth promo, the aptly paranoid security and uber-hip producers, Reflektor still has the feel of an event, a record that will be the talk of muso circles for months, possibly years, to come.