The early buzz on Arcade Fire’s new album, courtesy of James Murphy, the former LCD Soundsystem mastermind who is one of its producers, was that it was “really [expletive] epic.”
Of course it is. Epic is the whole point of this band whose music carries an air of importance. It makes indie rock in ALL CAPS, the soaring soundtrack for the apocalypse.
“Reflektor,” the band’s fourth album — and first since scoring a coup at the 2011 Grammys by winning album of the year for “The Suburbs” — is no less foreboding. It is, however, the Montreal rockers’ most hit-or-miss effort, at once arresting for its audacity and kaleidoscopic swirl of influences but often exhausting with songs that buckle under their own weight.
It’s hard to pin down the album’s sound, which careens from the druggy disco of Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English” (“We Exist” indeed could have been lifted from that 1979 album) to the early-’80s art rock of David Bowie and Talking Heads. (Bowie turns up for a brief cameo on the title track, bringing the homage full circle.) Rara, a festive music from Haiti, the homeland of member Régine Chassagne, was also an influence.
When frontman Win Butler and his cohorts hit their stride, it’s stunning. “Here Comes the Night Time” has a sly groove that’s looser than what they have conjured before. Mostly, though, this is a tightly wound record whose 13 songs sprawl to 74 minutes that are packaged as a two-disc collection. Take a deep breath, because there’s no time to catch it. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Here Comes the Night Time”James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.