“Do you like rock’n’roll music? Because I’m not sure I do,” Win Butler sings on “Normal Person”, a track off of Arcade Fire's new album Reflektor. After listening to the whole thing I certainly hope he rekindles his love for the genre. Recorded with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy as the producer, Reflektor, is the band’s attempt at a dance album. It tries to fold new wave, electronica, dub step, and Haitian music into the group's driving indie rock sound.
Unfortunately for the listener, Arcade Fire’s dance album is not danceable. Especially when Butler’s vocals hit the speakers. Heavy lines like “What if the camera really do take your soul?” delivered with a hushed and moody voice kill the dance vibe pretty quickly (Butler’s wife Regine Chassagne sounds much better on these kind of tracks but is quizzically not heard much on the record). The band’s rhythm section, which is tailor made for the rock n’ roll wallop of songs like “Rebellion (Lies)” does little to help here. They just can’t bring the funk on tracks like “Here Comes The Night Time,” which are in desperate need of some sizzle. Another problem is the length of the songs. Tune after tune trudge along at the same mid tempo pace before petering out around the 6 or 7 minute mark. Like a lesser Quentin Tarantino movie, this album could use some serious editing. There are a few strong tracks on the album (“We Exist” and “Joan of Arc” in particular) but they are few and far between.
As a band that released three great pop/rock albums in a row (Funeral, Neon Bible and my favorite, The Suburbs) it’s understandable that Arcade Fire would want to experiment on this new record. Some have compared this album to Achtung Baby or Ok Computer, but I disagree. Those albums managed to be experimental while still keeping the fundamental qualities of the bands that made them. Dramatic storytelling, big rock beats, catchy hooks, sharp arrangements – these are Arcade Fire's strengths but Reflektor eschews them as much as possible. I still like rock n’ roll music, especially when its the kind Arcade Fire used to make. I’m sure I do.