The Big Issue : Edition 446
THE BIG ISSUE 22 NOV – 05 DEC 2013 37 SELECT what’s happening in the arts, fIlm, MUSIC, BOOKS AND DVDS COLSON WHITEHEAD REFLEKTOR ARCADE FIRE ||| 1/2 ON THEIR 2004 debut, Funeral, Arcade Fire turned to daydreams for solace from the spectre of mortality. Their 2010 album, The Suburbs, was a sombre, Springsteenian march across the frontlines of new-millennial sprawl. Now, on their fourth album, they turn to the dance floor. Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and drawing from Jamaican dub and Haitian rara, Reflektor is a double LP in which the Canadian indie rockers attempt to get their groove on, and shake off their glowering reputation in the process. Reflektor sets Arcade Fire in the disco, but the vibe tends towards the loose and laidback. ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ starts in a furious flurry, but drops back to a lazy saunter; the dubbed-out ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ is only two-and-a -half minutes long, but it progresses on island time; and ‘Joan of Arc’ summons glam-rock stomp, but it’s determinedly mid-tempo. You can dance to all of it, but Arcade Fire still want to make you think. Thematically, the album positions the band as outsiders, shut out of heaven and throwing a street party for those denied entry. When they hear the beat/ coming from the street/they lock the door, sings Win Butler, but if there’s no music up in heaven/then what’s it for? Organised religion is just another system of one-percenter oppression, and Reflektor is dedicated to the misfits. If there’s a hell below we’re all gonna go, and on a more introspective second disc Arcade Fire venture down into Hades. They rework Greek mythology on the strummy, string-swept ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’ and new wavey ‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’. The initial impetus – politics set to a global dance pulse, like Arcade Fire’s answer to The Clash’s 1980 triple-LP, Sandinista! – falls away by design, ending with the minimalist soundscape ‘Supersymmetry’, an 11-minute comedown. At 85 minutes, Reflektor is free to wander and wobble, even if this means it fails to maintain the dance floor’s most desirable commodity: a sense of momentum. With its gimmicks (faux- live interludes, a cassette beep-tone ushering in the second half) and world- music vibes not entirely convincing, Reflektor may be considered a misstep. But if it is, it’s an admirable one; Arcade Fire continue to challenge their listeners, and themselves. by Anthony Carew » Reflektor is out now.