REVIEW & ANALYSIS: ARCADE FIRE – REFLEKTOR SINGLE

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Arcade Fire ReflektorPublished over at WhatCulture

Montreal’s finest indie-rock outfit Arcade Fire are back, and they’ve teamed up with James Murphy and David Bowie to deliver the title track and lead single from their new album Reflektor – a sprawling, swirling, gradually escalating disco-infused monster. Mr Bowie contributes eerie-sounding backing vocals to the track, while ex-LCD Soundsystem man James Murphy helms production.

The seven-minute epic continues themes explored on their 2010 masterpiece The Suburbs, an album loosely based around the idea of a search for the notion of home in an ever-shrinking world. The track’s central premise is that, in these GIF-saturated technology-driven times, art – especially digital media – is just a reflection… a pale echo of a purer sound. The message couldn’t be more relevant in our age of retweets, instagram photo sharing, and viral media.

‘Reflektor’ reinforces preoccupations that have long been on lead singer Win Butler’s mind: on 2007’s ‘Black Mirror’ he bemoaned the world’s descent into an Orwellian surveillance-dominated society, while on 2010 tracks ‘We Used To Wait’ and ‘Deep Blue’ he wistfully lamented the way technology was gradually encroaching on all aspects of our lives. Butler urged us to break free on the outro to ‘Deep Blue’: “Hey, put the cellphone down for a while – in the night there is something wild/ And hey, put the laptop down for a while – in the night there is something wild…”

Similar themes resonate heavily across Reflektor’s aural landscape, a savage indictment of the fickleness of relationships being sustained by social media (“Now, the signals we send, are deflected again/ We’re still connected, but are we even friends?”) and the need to break free from the banality of these watered-down versions of reality before they consume us (“Our love is plastic, we’ll break it to bits/ I want to break free, but will they break me?”) as reflections once consumed Narcissus.

The stunning Anton Corbijn-directed video provides a harrowing visual representation of the band’s lofty concerns. It’s dense with imagery showing the blurring of boundaries between words, and mankind’s poor attempts to mirror creation. In it, the band wear papier-mâché masks of their own faces, to convey that each day we wear a mask to represent one of the multitude of sloughed-off selves that reside within each of us.

It’s powerful. It’s mesmerising. It’s f*cking awesome. Arcade Fire aren’t just out to provide the soundtrack to your year, they’re trying to save your soul at the same time. Not for the first time, they look like the most important band in the world.

Reflektor will be released on October 29.

9.5 Stars (9.5 / 10)

8 thoughts on “REVIEW & ANALYSIS: ARCADE FIRE – REFLEKTOR SINGLE

  1. Yes yes yes spot-on analysis and this is what I got from it, an indictment on social media and the fact that – and you put this perfectly-all art nowadays is just a reflection of a reflection..

    “a pale echo of a purer sound.” – you put it beautifully.

    And our efforts to mimic creation, shown with the dolls in the video. So creeepy but soooo awesome!

  2. I just love the subtle things you see in the video. It’s glorious.I am convinced that this is David Bowie in the silver mirror outfit, haha.

    Great analysis.

    1. Hi,

      Regarding the masks, I think it really functions on two levels:

      1) Within each of resides a collective of selves, and we change the “self” that we show to the world as the situation necessitates

      2) More specifically in relation to Reflektor’s commentary on social media, we wear a variety of masks according to the Social Media situation – eg) your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, all distorted/ manipulated versions of your “true self”… In doing this, are you watering down the nature of your real self?

      As for Arcade Fire talking about problems and giving no solutions, the song itself (rhythmically) provides the solution. One of our writers at @PMAblog came up with a great bit of reasoning – this is taken from @ptabakis over at @PMAblog, saying:

      “Vincent Morisset’s spectacular, technologically innovative, take on “Reflektor” offers a worldly response to Butler’s metaphysical concerns: embrace your body and others’ too, “break free” and dance. Arcade Fire’s new single may raise many timeless questions, but it also provides a simple, conclusive answer with every thumping beat…”

      Ie – turn your phone off, put your laptop down, and tap those bloody feet.

      Thanks for commenting.

    1. You think Reflektor is pretentious, yet your name references the Book Of Enoch, not once… but twice?

      I’ll ping you a mail when the next Courteeners album is out 😉 Thanks for reading.

  3. I’m really glad that I stumbled upon this on reddit. it’s a really good analysis, I especially like the Narcissus reference, as I didn’t pick up on that.

    Also the bit about dancing being the answer to the questions that they ask is really good.

    1. I’m glad you found it.

      Please also read Peter Tabakis’s take on this, as it was his quote that I give in my comment above in relation to the dancing being the solution…

      http://prettymuchamazing.com/feature/tracking-35

      I think that interpretation is also given added weight by the video, when you can see the band rocking out at about.5.50…

      They look at the dolls, realise their folly – this epiphany hits them – and they DANCE! Amazing.

What are your thoughts?