Initial reflektions

by Steve

So, as you’ve probably heard, Arcade Fire last night released onto the internet the first song from their new album. You’ve probably not only heard this fact, but have heard the song, and read a bunch of blogs and tweets debating it. And yet I still can’t resist adding my £0.02/$0.02. I like to add to the noise.

Arcade Fire have often been more about the build of a song than just a traditional song structure. While they’ve never completely ignored the standard verse/chorus/verse structure, there has often been more of an ebb and flow, from early songs such as No Cars Go, to Neighbourhood #1 to Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). There is a locked-in rhythm, a momentum, and often some sort of release.

Reflektor seems to be very much a progression in this style. However, now the ‘build’ is more a groove, yet there is still a certain tension and terseness to it. You can tell it is a James Murphy production. While it isn’t quite Arcade Fire Go Hipster Dance, there is a near-funkiness to the track. This could be embarrassing, yet the band and producer play it pretty much perfectly – maintaining a restraint and control so that the song doesn’t descend into camp, yet adding enough layers and hooks to keep things interesting over seven-plus minutes.

It is a promising opening salvo from the band and Murphy. I’m certainly intrigued by the rest of the album. I just hope there is a degree of light and shade. I like that the band have subtly changed their sound and approach with each album without losing whatever makes them unique, but I hope there is enough variation to keep the whole album engaging, and to hopefully even point to what might come next.

A nice understated cameo from David Bowie too. Not easy to have a celebrity guest spot and not make it awful.

This new sound, while obviously LCD Soundsystem-esque also seems to be indebted to Bowie’s Berlin days, and those Talking Heads comparisons aren’t going away either. But while you can certainly spot influences and reference points it is still very much an Arcade Fire song. I guess that is one reason why they are so successful – you can recognise them right away, no matter what direction they take.

The promotional activities have been fun too. It is rare that an album release can still feel like an event. This album will probably be one of those occasions.