It’s been three long years since ‘The Suburbs’ expanded Arcade Fire’s efforts to reach for the stars, and progressed their already grandiose sound into something very nearly monumental. Three years later, journos tasked with reviewing the band’s fourth album ‘Reflektor’ must do so under supervised lab conditions, having previously signed a weighty legal disclaimer that amounts to “thou shalt not leak”. Yet for all the commercial enormity this kind of thing signifies, Arcade Fire still retain a cultish feel and an almost religious devotion amongst their fans. And so the first whispers of the album’s release, and then the more recent lead single ‘Reflektor’, have cranked up the fever to near-evangelical levels.

The album’s title track is also its opener, and there’s a nervous energy running through it that sets the tone for a record that seems to sit right on the edge. At eighty minutes, it’s firmly in that often-dodgy double-album territory, but the band’s seal rings though this opus in every note, and while there’s been a development in their sound, with producer James Murphy’s stamp felt distinctly in places (especially on the beat-driven ‘After Life’), it is still distinctly the group’s own. Stylistically, ‘Joan of Arc’ is the most typical Arcade Fire track here, carrying strong echoes of previous albums. ‘We Exist’ has a superb, ‘Billy Jean’-esque bassline, sitting strangely against a church-ey, organ-spliced feel, while ‘Normal Person’ is a blistering rock song and the heaviest on the album.

But within the schmaltzy ‘Awful Sound’, and the sub-Clash cacophony of ‘Here Comes The Night Time’, there are a handful of misses on this record, and no sign of a pop anthem in the mould of ‘(Rebellion) Lies’. If only Arcade Fire had eschewed self indulgence, ‘Reflektor’ could have been something very special.


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