When I think of Arcade Fire, the image that comes to my mind is one from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book, GOOD OMENS. In that book, there is a scene where Crowley is tearing across highways in a flaming wreck of a car that is held together with nothing more than his sheer force of will. When he arrives at his destination, what is left of the car falls apart, a sooty, burnt wreck. To me, with the large number of members making music fueled by manic energy, Arcade Fire has always been this close to chaos. In my opinion, the best songs toed the line between melody and noise.
But since “Funeral,” that energy has cooled. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked the CDs Arcade Fire has put out, but I miss that energy. Perhaps it’s just a question of getting older and evolving as a band.
And evolution is a risky process. Too much of the same, and the fans get bored. Too big a change, and fans turn away. And “Reflektor” is undoubtedly a step in a new direction for Arcade fire. So here’s the $64,000 question: Is it too big a step? Is it a misstep?
I think the sharpest comment about “Reflektor” was made by Rolling Stone, which called it Arcade Fire’s “Kid A.” I think “Reflektor” will alienate some fans. Perhaps they will think it too bloated, too different, too 80s, or too disco. But I also think there are some great moments on “Reflektor,” where that chaotic energy shines through (“Normal Person” and “Joan of Arc,” for example).
After a few listens, I will say that this album is growing on me. Like it? Sure. Love it? I don’t think I ever will. And after listening to it, my wife gave her best Huey Lewis from Back to the Future: “I’m afraid [it’s] just too darn loud.”
In other words, I think this album will be an inflection point for Arcade Fire. Whether the line bends down or up, only time will tell. One album does not a trend make. Looking back to Radiohead, they have continued to surprise with each new CD. The music changes, and the fans change too. New ones join in on the fun, while others move on. I think “Reflektor” is the beginning of that shift for Arcade Fire.