The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Arcade Fire's Reflektor Reviewed Track-By-Track
Julian Marszalek , October 15th, 2013 07:47

Julian Marszalek sits down in elegant surrounds for a first listen to Arcade Fire's fourth album

The levels of secrecy and security surrounding the release of subsequent Arcade Fire albums have long suggested the band have discovered a cure for cancer. While smokers are still taking their lives in their own hands, the subterfuge employed here is no different. Invited to a swank subterranean club in Marylebone, The Quietus makes itself comfortable among the kind of sumptuous cushions and dim lighting that suggest an upmarket session of opium ingestion might be in order. No such luck of course but our hosts make your scribe as comfortable as possible for the 80-minute journey into sound that is Arcade Fire’s fourth album, Reflektor.


So unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few weeks with no access to radios or the internet, you’ll already be familiar with this teaser from Arcade Fire’s fourth long player. Oh, you have? Riiiight. Well, what we have here is a stylistic shift for the Montreal ensemble that employs the production talents of DFA’s James Murphy alongside long-term partner-in-crime Markus Dravs and marks a clear move to the dancefloor. Ushered in by undulating synths that give way to dance beats and a pumping bass, the track also highlights the talents of one David Bowie who is heard grinning around the five-minute mark. ‘Reflektor’’s extended coda pauses to doff its cap to New Order before legging it with Peter Hook’s bass riff from ‘Perfect Kiss’ and transposing it to piano.

We Exist

The move to the dancefloor is very much in evidence here courtesy of ‘Billie Jean’’s four-to-the-floor beat that drives this track along. Slashed and reverberated guitars recall the work of Simple Minds before they decided they’d quite fancy having a go at being U2 and the throbbing bassline is rather worryingly reminiscent of Bon Jovi’s paean to blue-collar life, ‘Living On A Prayer’. And who said that mash-ups are a thing of the past? “Down on your knees/ Begging us please/ Praying we don’t exist,” sings Win Butler over the throb. But exist they do. We know because Butler tells us so. “We exist,” he confirms. And it’s in the song title.

Flashbulb Eyes

Fame, as a wise man once mused, puts you where things are hollow. And yes, the David Bowie influence is keenly felt on this meditation on the soul-sapping perils of a high public profile, specifically, his ill-advised flirtation with reggae circa Tonight and so it is that quite a few moves here are also cribbed from the mid-70s output from Jamaica. The deep bassline moves in and out of the skittering processed beats and electro drums while a Studio 1-type piano plonks away in the background while the overall track is drenched in reverb and echo.

Here Comes The Night Time

Segueing from its predecessor, ‘Here Comes The Night’ continues in the same musical theme but with more of an electro groove. Very much characterised by deep and punctuating keyboard stabs, tickled guitars and a piano break that attempts to ape the sound of steel drums, you almost feel threatened when Win Butler sings, “When we hear the beat from the street then they lock door.” Bim!

Normal Person

Probably the most interesting track on the album, ‘Normal Person’ is welcomed by the sound of concert crowd and a voice crying out, “Thanks for coming out tonight!” Once again, this is another groove based track underpinned by huge beats that also owes a debt to Bowie’s Lodger thanks to a snaking guitar line that Adrian Belew would be proud of.

You Already Know

Jazz dub, anybody? If Lee Perry had been allowed to remix 80s pop jazzers Matt Bianco and then pumped the results with steroids, protein shakes and raw steaks then the results would be in spitting distance of this. Once again swathes of echo and delay are employed, this time with the added dimension of backward sweeps that might get conspiracy theorists taking to the internet. It’s the easily the most pop based song here but it’s questionable as to how this might sound on the radio.

Joan Of Arc

The punk rock intro proves to be something of a red herring as the track soon morphs into a glam racket and there’s not much difficulty in imagining thousands of brickies in smeared make-up stomping their stack heels in the opening half of a North London derby in the days of Bertie Mee. The multi-tracked vocals are smeared in reverb while Regine’s voice is seemingly sent spiralling through a Leslie cabinet. The production here and throughout has the dense consistency of a foggy day in Iceland and the bass is especially prominent here.

Here Comes The Night Time II

The moodiest and most minimal number on the album, cellos greet the listener as Win intones, “Here comes the night again.” The strings soon build up to circular sweeps as Win laments, “It feels like it never ends – here comes the night again” before revealing, “I hurt myself again…” Whether he does this to see if he still feels is never established.

Awful Sound

Latin-type rhythms soon give way to gliding strings and slashing chords before a wave of processed beats take over. Cinematic sweeps are certainly at play here before yielding to a middle-eight that moves the track into a more drone-based territory. But then, just as you think you'e got a hang of this thing Arcade Fire then make a sharp left turn and swerve into the lush area of pop balladry.

And then, unlike most of the other tracks contained here, it comes to a sudden halt.

It’s Never Over

We’re back to the 4/4 beats again with a number that sounds like New Order commanding a tank battalion in the Battle Of The Bulge. This owes much to dance music in the broad sense as drops are deployed throughout before being blasted away by the kind of bassline that Peter Hook probably hums whilst waiting for his pizza to come out of the oven. And it certainly goes on for long enough and in the process it sounds as if Arcade Fire are remixing themselves as they go along. “It’s over too soon!” they sing at the end. They’re lying.


A synth-heavy track with programmed beats, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to Macca’s ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’. Some guitars creep in and out again like the servants serving soup in Downton Abbey as Win informs us, “I know that I hurt you, I won’t deny it” before coming to an abrupt end at 6.03.


Even more dance influences manifest themselves with the added ingredient of very low-frequency bass and washes of keyboards. This really does give the impression of being mastered for power but the result is that a lot of the cymbals and percussion become lost as frequencies slug it out among themselves to be heard.


Clocking in at a wopping 11.17, this is a meditation on mortality as Win sings, “I know you’re in my mind/ But it’s not the same as being alive." Arpeggiated synths are stabbed with bass and the track slowly starts to build up, up, up and you’re expecting the bomb drop or just simply something to happen but sadly nothing does. Except for the six-minute coda wherein an inexperienced pair of hands are seemingly let loose on a harmoniser before having it taken away from them and then sent to bed without any supper.

Reflektor is out on October 28

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.