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When an indie-rock band from Montreal shocks the pop-culture universe by taking home the Grammy for Album of the Year, they stick to their recipe, right? Reflektor is Arcade Fire’s resounding, rousing “Wrong” — one yelled at the top of their lungs and put to a newfound dance groove with the help of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
It was clear from the first synthy strut of its self-titled lead single that Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and the rest of the gang are not afraid to spike the punch this time around. And so far, critics aren’t grimacing. That’s probably because, at its core, Reflektors is still very much an Arcade Fire album — tackling ambitious themes of death and what comes after, what’s real versus the reflection. They’ve ventured far beyond the neighborhoods of The Suburbs for a more worldly sound — Butler has said “Reflektor” was directly influenced by a trip to Haiti and rara music he heard there — but they haven’t forgotten where they came from.
But not everyone’s in love with Reflektor. Here’s a roundup of what critics are saying:
It’s Not Afraid To Get Sweaty
“Reflektor’s sound is lush and imaginative, but never in a way that suffocates you with the fumes of its polish. It’s limber and loose, as though the songs were performed live; the arrangements breathe, seethe, and sweat. As their detractors will be quick to point out, Arcade Fire’s greatest crime in the past has been sometimes coming off too stately and self-serious (The Suburbs in particular had a buttoned-up quality that failed to capture the frenzied energy of their live shows), but on the first half of Reflektor they often feel like they’re deflating their own sense of grandeur. It’s nice to hear a band that showed up on the scene quite literally dressed for a funeral now sounding like they’re having (at least a little) fun.” — Pitchfork
Just Enough Of A Kick
“Reflektor is even better [than The Suburbs], for this reason: the jarring, charging union of Murphy’s modern-dance acumen and post-punk sabotage with Arcade Fire’s natural gallop and ease with Caribbean rhythm. (Chassagne is of Haitian descent; she and Butler have been active in relief efforts there.) Murphy worked on all but two songs, with most of those tracks near or over six minutes long. The result is an epic made for dancing and sequenced like whiplash. ” — David Fricke, Rolling Stone
The ‘Inception’ Of Albums?
“Arcade Fire have never been broken. Their creative three-year lapses between albums have rewarded them a flawless resume that few (if any) of their contemporaries can print out. No doubt the band recognizes this rare power, as they’ve proven recently with their masterful promotional campaign behind Reflektor — from online viral marketing to guerilla citywide promotions to intimate sold out gigs as The Reflektors. At this point, Win Butler is rock ‘n’ roll’s Christopher Nolan, a hyper-literate artist who crafts reliable, intelligent, and challenging blockbuster events that sweep our minds away. With the 85-minute Reflektor, he’s taken his most creative risks to date and at the cost of simply trusting what he sees, who he knows, and where he wants to go.” — Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound
But Does It Overstay Its Welcome?
“Since every track outstays its welcome by a couple of minutes it makes for a merely very, very good one instead. If the longueurs lag, the teases frustrate. ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ revs up into a clatter of frenetic Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms before cravenly wussing out and dropping to half-speed … There are great swaths of padding — extra choruses, digressive workouts that should flex the muscles but merely prolong closure. The price for this long-windedness is the loss of impact of what should be killer blows on an album that should be as vital as Butler’s ode to music itself on Here Comes the Night Time: “a thousand horses running wild in a city on fire.” — Kitty Empire, The Observer