I was resolute. I needed to listen to it in its entirety before forming any opinion. I shied away from internet reviews and even those of my musically inclined friends who immediately dissed the whole thing after viewing their appearance on Saturday Night Live. I was adamant. I had to listen to the whole thing more than once and with great intent as a true reviewer should. Make all opinions and impressions my own.
So then I listened to it. Over and over. And found it way too short. I was flummoxed that such a highly anticipated musical release would contain just 5 songs. It was disheartening. Though I would have loved to shout to my friends that they had prejudged a masterpiece, but I couldn’t. It just wasn’t that good.
So after at a dozen listens, I begrudgingly returned it to its case where I discovered something brilliant-The rest of the album. I am referring to Arcade Fire’s newest album Reflektor. Yep I admit it. I had only been listening to the second CD of this luscious double CD and took it as the entire album. I am rarely so naïve.
But now I am enlightened. Is this the greatest album of all time? no. In fact it is not even as rich as The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. It is however a bold attempt and forward-looking statement from a band that has had an awful lot heaped on them. They keep fighting. They appear immune to the naysayers and quite honestly the lot of my friends who did not discover this band, but had to put up with other hipsters who did and claimed them as their own.
Words like epic are a little too much to describe this effort, but it is admirable to say the least. Listeners may in fact discover lost worlds in the variety of tempos, rhythms and arcane lyrics. What Reflektor is is the state of music circa 2013. A band forced to shovel heaps of publicity stunts just to get people to listen. This album is complex and it contains a myriad of catchy rhythms. It’s as if you melted all the Talking Heads’ albums together
It’s bold and audacious in spite of missing the mark on a few songs. Yet there is so much to ponder and take in that I think it will keep on appearing on the radio for the next three years, because its songs benefit from repeated listenings. I could hammer individual selections for their length and there are moments of near silence that just confuse. However, in a world where an artist playing a Macintosh passes for transcendent music, Arcade Fire brings a dozen musicians together to present a living document of modern sound.
Take the aforementioned SNL appearance. Quirky as it may have appeared, let’s do the analysis. There were 12 musicians cramped on a TV soundstage with at least enough respect for the audience to dress up. As Win Butler, the lead singer, struggled to connect with the distant audience, the dozen players, including not one but two conga players, introduced strange cadences the way the Tom Tom Club did years ago.
The effort is there. The results are hard to decipher on first take, but repeated listens reward. Arcade Fire is a band in the truest sense of the word.