Words are hard. They’re hard to come up with to start this review off. Halfway through listening to the new Arcade Fire album, Reflektor, I found myself wishing I hadn’t set out to do a review on it. It’s not as if I needed to, I just like to keep busy and keep up with new music. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what to say, how to sum up how I feel about the album overall. I’ve thrown out a few tweets about it, but even 140 characters is hard to limit myself. This is a super self-indulgent, bloated, boring, pointless, wandering album. I could probably go grab a thesaurus and find some more adjectives to describe how bored I was listening to this. It’s like Arcade Fire listened to all of Bowie’s late 70s/early-to-mid 80s output, sprinkled in some U2 Actung Baby/Zooropa and a whole bunch of douche and missed the point completely. There’s no soul here, there’s nothing redeeming, if that’s the point of the album, then bravo Arcade Fire.
Why is this album so damn long? I don’t mind long albums, believe me, but what I don’t like are long albums that say nothing or do nothing. I think the whole point of this album is supposed to be about alienation through technology. Yawn. Like we haven’t heard that before. There was a lot of talk by Win Butler about going to Haiti and how that opened him up to all kinds of new music. Is this shit what Haiti produces? I’d like to think that Haiti produces beautiful music, but hey that’s just me. Butler sort of off-handedly compared himself to Bob Marley; “I just felt like we were opened up to a new influence. Bob Marley probably felt the same way the first time he heard Curtis Mayfield.” I’m sure that Marley was inspired when he heard Mayfield for the first time, it’s hard not to be, but Marley (whom I’m not even a huge fan of) still released music better then anything on this album. It wanders and wanders and wanders and nothing is said, nothing is done, nothing happens. That’s the fucking problem. Absolutely nothing happens on this album. A bunch of instruments are played, the drummer can’t keep up with the dance-y rhythms, the rest of the band can’t seem to figure out how to incorporate Bowie nor electronica/EDM into their sound and failed to do anything that makes this album passable. There are 80s moments here and the problem is, they fail at doing that. Carly Rae Jepsen has a better grasp of good 80s sounding pop music then these guys do.
Look, I get that Win Butler is a “genius” or something like that. He went to Phillips Exeter Academy for high school (up the road from where I write this review), and has released some amazing stuff. I’ve never been a huge Arcade Fire fan, I kinda, sorta liked their first album, but they were new. They were one of the few “big as U2″, yet still indie band thing. That wore down quick. A few albums later that played to their strengths and we’re here, with Reflektor. The album was produced by James Murphy, of LCD Soundsystem fame, whom I also don’t care for and believe me, I’ve tried. Maybe I’m not the right person to review this album, but it’s a contrary view to the, I’m sure, countless positive reviews it’ll get from Pitchfork and other hipster loving review sites lauding it as the second coming of Yeezus (speaking of Yeezus, that album gets better with more play throughs). They wanted to make a dance album but not once did I feel the urge to get up and dance. Butler commented that he wanted to make an album to make his wife dance, and she’s hard to please in that area supposedly. Well I’m a pretty easy person to get up and dancing (despite not being able to dance well) and this had me pausing to go listen to something else because it was so damn boring.
I keep saying boring because I really have no other way to describe it. It’s like they took all that was good with Bowie’s Let’s Dance, tossed it out the window, didn’t bother to get a Stevie Ray Vaughan soundalike (John Mayer I’m sure was available for some guitar work) and then released it. I don’t even know where to begin with the tracks because they all sort of suck in their own way. Uninteresting, recycled 808 beats, mixed with “real” instruments. Lyrics that are hidden under layers of instrumentation, making it hard to pay attention to, and I’m so bored overall with the album I don’t even care to go look up the lyrics. At first the instrumentation sounds cool, but then after 4 hours of the same 4/4 or 2/4 beats and boring/lazy guitar work, it gets old. Steve Hyden mentioned that other hands have done something like this, long pop/dance albums with some sort of theme, he mentioned Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, which is a vastly superior album compared to this. Viva La Vida is like the Pet Sounds compared to this, this is more like The Monkees. There’s nothing wrong with The Monkees but they’re lacking lyrical substance, although, The Monkees at least made entertaining music.