Arcade Fire’s overstuffed and self-important (so naturally Grammy-winning) The Suburbs marked their simultaneous ascension to indie rock royalty and up their own butts. Of course they’d collaborate with James Murphy for their next LP. As can be expected from a work produced in part by the LCD Soundsystem guy, Reflektor is paradoxically the most danceable Arcade Fire record and the least fun. It is grey, tepid, and endless, a maudlin slog that clocks in at an exhaustive 80 minutes despite being good for about 30. It’s a record that, like Watch The Throne, cracks under the weight of unchecked egos, only instead of a celebration of hip hop, Reflektor is a shot of aging hipster ennui.
It was said around Funeral that Win Butler sang like Jonny Greenwood played guitar because of the unbridled vigour he used to attack lyrics; a decade on, his lyrics are much grimmer and more controlled, and not particularly insightful for the weight they’re given. Lines like “Is there anything stranger than a normal person?” and “We’re so connected, but are we even friends?” come off like shots at the social media generation three years too late. The band’s Bono-esque approach to first-world problems is par for the course, but it’s rendered toothless especially by Murphy’s sterile production. Reflektor’s narrow sonic palette sucks the life out of songs that feature otherwise cool ideas – on Neon Bible, the revved-up coda of “Here Comes the Night Time” would’ve been a standout climax on an album full of them, but here, it passes on blandly as the steel-drum-heavy main tune. This is Reflektor’s central issue: it’s boring. For an album overflowing with ideas and minutes, it’s remarkable how few of both actually stick.
Listen: “Flashbulb Eyes”, “You Already Know” || Watch: “Here Comes The Night Time”