By Ira Saxena, Batch of 2016
If only you can handle so many diverse sounds in a single record coming from a once indie-rock-turned-electro Canadian band, then Reflektor is your album of the year. Now, to deem Arcade Fire’s music as ‘electro’ at this stage may be called ‘amateurish’ by some, but you can’t help it, if that’s the kind of sound their music has been converging into lately.
Released in November, last year, Arcade Fire’s fifth studio album, Reflektor is a vaudeville of such varying intensities and emotions that it’ll leave you mesmerized and equally surprised.
The first single, ‘Reflektor’, marks the departure of Arcade Fire from their conventional grunge-rock anthems. It has a lot of influence from the 80’s electro-pop. And if you listen carefully, you can hear some Haitian effects on the percussions too. But the icing on the cake is hearing the maestro, David Bowie’s vocals on the song, albeit his voice is just a faint murmur in the background. This track has received mixed reviews though. On one hand, people are still trying to embrace the fact that Arcade Fire is changing its course, while appreciating the complexity and understated beauty of this song.
‘We Exist’, an electro-rock number, is truly Win Butler’s (the lead-vocalist) song. His voice and his words will echo in your ears and mind for hours. For many, this song is an outcry by the repressed and victimized Gay and Lesbian society, all over the world, to free them from all labels and stereotypes, and to let them coexist with the rest of us. Although, the band itself hasn’t made any mention on the album or elsewhere to confirm this theory but the lyrics can be interpreted in any which way.
“They are walking around, head full of sound Acting like we don’t exist They walk in the room, stare right through you Talking like we don’t exist But we exist”
As the album unfolds, the distinction between the sounds become more conspicuous. Arcade Fire never intended on making simply a dance album. This isn’t a band that would reinvent itself by diving into the popular notion that electronica is all that is today.
Tracks like ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ and ‘You Already Know’ are up-tempo and heavy on percussions. ‘You Already Know’ has a shimmer of rock in it too. ‘Supersymmetry’ is a minimalistic-sounding, synth-pop number and has both Regine Chassange and Win Butler harmonizing in it. ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’ and ‘Its Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’ delve into the mythical roots of Reflektor, which draws its inspiration from the Greek tragic affair of Orpheus, the gifted musician whose human flaws kept him from saving his love, Eurydice.
Arcade Fire goes back into the familiar territory with ‘Normal Person’ , a gritty grunge number with catchy guitar riffs. Though it doesn’t compare with any of their previous works in the past like ‘No Cars Go’ and ‘Ready to Start’, it is snappy enough to sustain your interest. What is really saddening though, is that this song induces a sensation of the gradual sunset of their much-reveled career (of being one of the most memorable rock bands of our generation). When Win Butler sings at the beginning of the song, “Do you like rock ‘n’ roll music, cause I don’t know if I do”, you feel the weariness and restlessness of the band to shift to a different domain altogether and relinquish their former sound.
Well, the tides are definitely changing for Arcade Fire. And their future sounds pretty brilliant, because if there is anything that has been constant over the past years, it is their charm to captivate and overwhelm their listeners.