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Review: Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Until yesterday, I had no idea who Arcade Fire were, but Amazon told me I might like them, so I went to have a look and emerged from the experience with a digital copy of Reflektor.

Every Saturday I get up and think, “It’s running morning.”  On weekdays I get up and think, “I could do some yoga.”  Sometimes I even get up and do some.  Usually I stay in bed until it’s too late.  This morning I got up and thought “Great!  I can listen to Arcade Fire again and dance!”  OK, it’s not running, it’s not yoga (which is actually quite hard work, all that shifting your body weight around) and it’s not high impact aerobics BUT on the other hand, it’s something I actually want to do, which has to be worth quite a bit.

So, clearly it’s catchy and tuneful, which I like.  I can’t be doing with this industrial type of dance, like the metallic clash of knives banging against each other, or the scrape of aircraft manoeuvring about within hangars.

Reflektor is a two disc album since at 75 minutes, it’s one minute too long to fit onto one CD.  Considering that over one minute’s worth of this is silence, leading to the “hidden” tracks, this is more of a statement than a practicality. On the Internet, I learn that Reflektor is a concept album.

What’s the concept?  Well, songs 9 and 10 are called Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus), and there’s a statue of the two of them on the front of the album – Eurydice being a wood nymph and Orpheus her husband, who followed her down into the Underworld when she died to bring her back.  The only thing he had to remember was not to look at her until she had returned. However, doubting her, he looked back just before they got back to daylight and she vanished back into the Underworld.

12 is called Afterlife, and 13, the last track, Supersymmetry (with some ghostly, mysterious sounds aka “bonus tracks” attached to the end). So there’s definitely a theme going there. What exactly it is, I don’t know. The first few tracks are more worldly and modern, for example, Flashbulb Eyes clearly refers to the press and our relationship with it, and an interpretation of We Exist is that it is a musician’s lament to the impersonal way in which bands are treated by reviewers and indeed the public. However I think it would be uncharitable to take this as the only interpretation. I do like ambiguous lyrics and there are myriads of theories going on at the wonderful discussion site songmeanings.com .

Opening track Reflektor could be taken as a musing on the dominance of technology in our lives above reality, or about the relationship between artist, art and observer. Personally, I like the way the lyrics fit in with the Eurydice/Orpheus myth, with their talk about life and death, darkness and light, and the sentiment that if one can’t find what one wants in Heaven, then Heaven is not worth caring about. I also think that in the constant repetition of “you were just a reflektor” rather than “the connector” the song is saying something about illusion and what it is to be deceived. This is similar to Plato’s argument in his Symposium, that the gods had tricked Orpheus all along and had only sent him away with an apparition.

The critics say that the tracks are a bit long, but that’s a positive thing for me – it’s much nicer to be able to get into a dance track rather than have them finish before you are ready.

It’s quite odd to find an album that causes me to want to think and to dance at the same time.  Luckily I quite like doing both.

Tomorrow, I’m disappointed to remember, is a running day.

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32 Comments

  1. Funny enough, I am an Arcade Fire fan (owning their first three albums), but have yet to listen to this one. Instead my music of (not) choice these days is The Wheels on The Bus.

    Round and round and round and round….

    • Ah yes an old favourite! We used to sing that particular song almost every week at Tumble Tots – it’s great for actions.

  2. I haven’t heard of the band. But will check them out. Your review revealed a lot about how you feel about the cd. Which as always intrigues me, i.e. your expressive thoughfulness to any subject matter. But I am not sure exactly what kind of “dance”-able music is it. : )

    • It’s very infectious dancable music! But I love the freedom of dancing to lots of different types of music, sometimes it’s more a case of having to stop myself.

  3. I’ve never heard of Arcade Fire but it’s great that you can dance to their music. I love doing that 🙂

  4. I’ve heard of the name Arcade Fire, but never really thought about giving their music a try (not because I had heard anything bad, but it just never crossed my mind). Thanks for the review! 🙂

  5. I’ve really enjoyed Arcade Fire’s music in the past so will have to listen to this asap. Thanks as always for the fab review Denise. Hope your run wasn’t too painful, you’re brave getting out in this weather!

    Very happy new year to you & your lovely daughters 🙂

  6. I’ve never heard of this either. Do you just dance in your living room? I’m a little confused because it sounds like this is some kind of exercise regime so I’m wondering whether you follow specific dance steps or if it is all just ad lib?

    • I used to do dance videos for fitness but since the thing I find most fun, and the thing that I look forward to, is creating, I prefer just to dance “freestyle” now. I’m a pretty energetic dancer!

  7. Hahaha. As I get older, running and I have developed a love-hate relationship, Denise. will listen to this album to try something new – running or not. Thanks for sharing! – Shanna

    • I can’t run more than once a week or it hurts my joints, but that’s good because it has taken the pressure of me to have to get out there – now I try to enjoy it.

      I made latkes again yesterday! They have become a yummy feature of our household now, following your post.

      • I love latkes, Denise. They are very versatile. You can really use any root vegetable that you enjoy or is in season. The toppings are also versatile. I am so happy to hear that you are inspired by the post.

        I do hear you on running… it is hard on the joints. I often walk to take a day off running. Swimming is another great option for low-impact cardio. Take good care, Denise.

  8. Don’t you just love when Amazon tells you that you might like something? For me, it often results in spending money. I’ve never heard of Arcade Fire, but if a band can get me to both dance and think…they’re okay in my book. I’ll have to check them out.

    • Yes, I think it is inspired! Especially with music it can be very difficult to tell from a review whether you like something or not, but Amazon’s methods of selection are very clever.

  9. I love it when you find something that you might have otherwise dismissed. I get it less through Amazon and more through my ereader with suggestions of other authors I might like. I have found many new favourites this way which I probably wouldn’t have readooll otherwise. I haven’t really listened to any Arcade Fire but perhaps I might now!

    • It’s very moving and thought provoking in places but draws you in to dancing too, if that is your type of thing.

      It’s great to be able to sample music and books straight away when they are suggested, I am reading and listening to much more than I used to because of this.

  10. Keep dancing, girl! (And thinking while you dance.) There’s some pretty solid clinical-trial evidence that dancing (throughout our lives) reduces the risk of dementia on-set, and/or slows its progression.

    I have an upcoming post (scheduled for April) about that.

    Lyrics are finally being treated by critics with the same respect given to “poetry,” mostly because lyric-writing, is more and more often, being done by people with an understanding of the nuances of poetry. Makes songs so much more interesting. But still, I tend to think the critics are often too narrow-minded, which is why I like reading blogs and reviews by people who are not professional critics, who write intelligently and well, as you do.

    • Too right, I was amazed by how narrow minded the critics were, much more so than book reviewers I’ve read. For example, saying “Oh yes the song is about this and therefore…” It would drive me round the bend if I were that musician, and it makes me think, if the lyrics of “We Exist” do happen to be about the banality of critics, then they really do deserve it!

      • We could make a long thread of rants, I’m sure, about “critics.” I’ll just say that in my opinion they often fall out of touch with much of the world, and too often repeat themselves. Banal is a good word.

        Although you would make a great critic, I’d beg you to resist the lure. Or start a new profession that’s sort of like that–you really do very fine reviews–but call yourself something other than a critic. (Of course if you came up with exactly the right new word for the new concept of what a critic ought to do/be to society, you’d probably get credit for it in some future scholastic dictionary).

      • I would never aspire to a comparison, and anything I write in the same vein would be but a pale copy, but Caitlin Moran does great reviews. Mainly for TV rather than books, they consist of an oblique description of her reaction, plus an idea of what the thing is about so that you can gauge whether you would like it or not, but the key thing is the lack of need to *judge* the thing she is reviewing. Lack of the need to laugh at it or be better than it. And that makes it *more* funny and makes you respect her *more* for her own wit.

        Unfortunately she has stopped doing the reviews because of workload but I hope she starts again one day.

        I’m glad you enjoy my reviews! Thank you xx

      • It’s admirable that you don’t aspire to compare yourself to the people you consider “great.” But knowing what we admire and why, and wanting to be and do our best work always, are very fine things.

        I quite expect that we’ll soon enough see your star adding to the sky light, in its own way. (I’m reading the Lover’s Dictionary right now. Never would have picked it up without your review).

  11. I have never heard of this band but I am a big fan of dancing around the kitchen. Alas, my dancing only happens to cheesy pop music. But dancing is so very good for you, surely no music that provokes it can be wrong! 🙂

    • Yes, it definitely makes me feel good. Plus… at work I have been listening to the quieter “second” album and marvelling at the lyrics of “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” which talk about Orpheus truly realising and facing the fact that he will never see Eurydice again – the way part of you is waiting for the day when all this will be over, when in fact it never will be over. Which feels good to listen to as well, but in a totally different way.

  12. Trini

    I’m a big fan of Arcade Fire but haven’t had a chance to listen to this album yet..they have such an evocative sound and I love that their lyrics have depth. I know what you mean about the yoga – I always resolve to do it but then I remember that it’s actually really hard!

    • I did yoga this morning! Because I had had a shower yesterday evening and didn’t want to get too manic before going to work.

      Although I did think “Am I up for this, it’s cold,” obviously having forgotten that yoga is hard work and does warm you up quite a bit.

      • Trini

        Good on you! I always remember why I have the best intentions to do it after completing a session because it makes you feel so good. Should definitely keep you warm for the day ahead 🙂

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