Me and Arcade Fire go way back.
I found their first record, Funeral, Life Changing.
Neon Bible aims for life changing, but that rarely works, and doesn’t here. But even after the initial disappointment of it, I have to admit it’s still a very strong record.
The Suburbs was calm, satisfying and reassuring in that they could come up with sixteen excellent - as opposed to NB’s ten hit or miss - songs.
But, as you might notice, there’s the "artist half-life” working here. This is when an artist first blows you away, but over the course of time, grows less inspired. Their original, er, fire, wanes to a glow. Warm but not brilliant.
That Arcade Fire's best work may be behind them is no sin. It happens to the best of them/us.
But like any other self respecting, and formerly Life Changing band, they try something new.
They risk pissing off their fans, but it’s a smart move to shake off all that alt rock adulation. Besides, no one’s expecting a masterpiece at this point.
This new sound was introduced on a TV special after their appearance on SNL. Unlike the rest of the universe, I really enjoyed it.
Now that I have the record, how does it sound after being a little more lived in? After all, whatever move you’re trying to make, you better bring along the goods, like good songs. So do they?
It’s a two CD set. Think of it as their Sandanista, though less compelling, urgent or even earnest. But that’s okay. Earnestness gets annoying after a while.
While Sandanista ran over two hours, Reflektor only goes for a little over 80 minutes, which makes me smell a rat. After all, there are only thirteen songs which, if judiciously edited, could have easily fit onto one CD.
I can hear the objections already:
AF: But that would ruin the concept!
Me: Whatever that is. If I were more interested I’d read the lyrics to find out.
AF: But we made them longer so that people could dance to them!
Me: I’ll never know.
And yet, I can listen to all of it all the way through, and it doesn’t drag at all.
Could I live without it? Sure. So it falls into that sad category known as Good But Unnecessary. Is the world a better place with it here? A wee bit.
But I imagine there are many other better - and just as daring - albums out there. So it’s time for me to find my new Arcade Fire. B+