Experimental Arcade Fire burning bright
Arcade Fire Reflektor (Virgin)
IT'S cool for an artist to be fearless. It's how it should be.
The great ones have been those who threw caution to the wind and went for broke.
There's risk and, of course, times when experimentation results in failure, a test-tube dud, a disfiguring explosion. But better to spontaneously combust than to slither into a morass of mediocrity.
Since their debut album, Funeral, some nine years ago, Montreal collective Arcade Fire have displayed an assured grasp of pop's philosophy from A to B and round the houses. The living master of reinvention, David Bowie, was attracted moth-like to their flame.
That they weren't a one-sparkler sensation became obvious as they navigated the pirate seas of rock'n'roll. Both Neon Bible and The Suburbs were albums that weighed in for the heavyweight division and made it onto the critical podium with ease.
These lengthy 13 tracks represent the band's most ambitious hustle to date.
Like Picasso, they have an ability to not search but find.
Teaming dance master James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) with their long-serving producer Markus Dravs, they have moved through the equivalent of a Blue period and a Cubist period to embrace a more readily accessible medium.
Reflektor is similar to Pablo putting his energies into handmade pottery. You could eat your dinner off this album. And probably will when you stop dancing.
It won't be a dog's dinner. Arcade Fire's Bowie-like ability to appropriate an encyclopaedic range of musical influences serves them well.
There's a toughness to their songwriting that survives the conjuring up of riffs from the likes of Gorillaz, The Four Tops, The Stones ...you get the picture.
But it's their new and improved dancefloor template that grabs attention first (a sonic DNA that can be traced back to Giorgio Moroder). That and the epic nature of the tracks. They are what might have been called extended mixes back in the day.
Lead singer Win Butler's tone retains its essential sense of yearning confirming the band's soulful, hermetic message. Mythic stuff.