Sparks of ingenuity fly from Arcade Fire
Before the praise – and there's a great deal to praise – let's get the negative stuff out of the way first.
Arcade Fire's fourth album is way too long: perhaps 20 minutes of its 75-minute run time should have been excised. The atmospheric 11-minute closer Supersymmetry, for instance, is mainly comprised of the sort of extraneous, self-indulgent padding that pockmarks the album. Had they shortened the song by even a minute, these 13 tracks could have fit on one CD (74 minutes is the capacity of standard compact discs); instead it puffs its chest out and joins the double album club.
The themes – isolation and death, chief among them – can feel a little heavy-handed, especially when Win Butler and friends seek profundity in Greek mythology, and while they are to be applauded for the new musical avenues that are explored, it's difficult to escape the sense that certain styles and genres just don't work for this band.
And still Reflektor is an immense piece of work that confirms Arcade Fire to be one of the very best bands to have emerged this century to date. There's ambition and chutzpah in spades here and songs that straddle the line between commerce and the avant-garde better than just about anyone else.
Whether it's the sumptuous strings that take We Exist to another level or the Afro-Carribbean influence that makes Here Comes the Night Time such a delight, every track on this album boasts at least some spark of ingenuity.
This is an album that requires some work from its listener, but those willing to give it time will be richly rewarded.
Key tracks: Reflektor; We Exist; Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)