Few modern rock bands resonate so deeply and with so many people as Arcade Fire. The Montreal outfit earnestly asks questions — about mortality, faith, purpose, and human connection — within its grand pop songs. But if fans are wondering whether Arcade Fire could trump 2010’s The Suburbs, they’re in for a surprise: Reflektor, the band’s fourth album, isn’t a triumph or a masterpiece. It’s much more perplexing, imaginative, and messy than that.
Reflektor draws from an ambitious range of influences, including Haitian rhythms and percussion; Greek mythology; and its producer, James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem. When it succeeds in melding these disparate elements, we get bold, expansive, dance-friendly songs like “Porno,” the title track, and “Afterlife.” But not all the tracks are successful. Although the 76-minute album’s two discs share many of the same themes — the dualities of light/dark and heaven/hell, the afterlife, the alienation that technology creates — overall, Reflektor feels disjointed and unfinished, like it’s trying to do and be too much.
In a way, this is actually sort of comforting, because it’s obvious that the members of Arcade Fire aren’t content in their rock-legend status. So when frontman Win Butler still seems unsure of the answers to questions like Can we work it out? and When love is gone, where does it go?, we believe him. (Merge)