Arcade Fire has both annoyed me and enthralled me in equal measure before the release of this album. Their first album "Funeral" for me is a wonder piece of modern indie rock, however "Neon Bible" and "The Suburbs" (in the words of Peter Griffin in Family Guy) insist on themselves. They are so up their own arses that it made me nauseas, they might be hits with the masses but overall those albums just infuriate me to the extreme. They both have good ideas, but they just dick around them till they become irrelevant. Anyway, the build up to this release has been interesting with a guerrilla style art campaign and releasing songs in the name of the album instead of themselves. They have kept the intrigue up; also have James Murphy formerly of LCD Soundsystem has got the world wondering what this is all about. For me, it is the vain hope that they will return to former glories; so without further ado, time to review this double disc bad boy.
There is a hidden track at the beginning of the first disc with 10 minutes of samples, but this is not available on the Spotify version obviously; to hear it you will have to get the album. Starting off the album proper with the title track, this is a seven minute indie rock disco anthem which is dropped with the most subtle of ease. When they are in their moment and not just making noise for noise sakes they are a fascinating band, also at seven minutes plus it is hardly a short song but it goes by before you know it. It is very rare that they have had this sort of moment for a long time. Following on is "We Exist" which is another dance filled bomb that slowly pulses around the mind with a class movement; it feels like a lighter version of Ariel Pink and you are on the right track. The influence of James Murphy on this album is so obvious from the beginning that it might as well be LCD Soundsystem with special guests Arcade Fire, but this is a real positive to be honest. It has given them a shot in the arm from the beginning and changed them to a certain degree. Next is almost short "Flashbulb Eyes" which sounds like a moment from an 80's computer game and has a slight jarring effect; to be honest it is not too bad - just that the first two songs were of such a high quality.
"Here Comes The Night Time" is back on form with an almost fairground start and runs into an almost samba frantic pace for a few seconds and drops into another slow and dangerous piece of disco that makes this album for its beginnings already better than their last two which have been held as modern classics (that is wrong by the way - but I digress). "Normal Person" is next which starts with a more traditional beginning and a familiar rock feel which is not too far away from the harder moments of albums past for these cats, but with a forward looking style. The lyrics dealing with how they do not want to be normal people and what they are going to do, it is a different direction on the album but not everything can be dancing nirvana. After this is a really strange moment with "You Already Know" and it's almost pseudo-country flavour, no word of a lie here - it feels like Chas N Dave do country and would have been best kept in the studio, first tear in the amour for this album. Ending the first side of this double album is "Joan Of Arc" with its more punk feeling, it ends this side of the album on a positive note, it has a fire in its belly that "You Already Know" did not have; much better from this band of mistrials.
Starting off the second side of the album with a digit beep is "Here Come The Night Time II" which really acts as an interlude between the two sections of the album - not bad but hardly essential. "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" is next with its strange drifting landscape of a dream like quality, but it has a painful note section which helps make this song a lot more interesting to be honest; it just drifts along and makes no real sense as to why it was included. That is until "It Is Never Over (Oh Orpheus)", its mirror sister; once this track kicks in with the disco rhythm and sensibility coming through it makes the other track come into focus and amplifies its importance. You need the light and the dark sometimes and these two tracks would not work without the other one. That is a very hard trick to do in this era of supermarket indie; these guys are thinking on a different level in places and this makes the record incredibly interesting.
"Porno" follows these twins and I feel sort of sorry for it in a way; any track would have a hard time following what has just past, but this track is more subtle than that and has secret hooks which entrench it into your mind. This is the stand out moment of the album for that reason alone as it is dark and desolate, yet it demands repeat listens. With a drum intro we welcome "Afterlife" which was released as the second single from this album. It sounds like a holiday gone wrong to be honest - not that it is awful, but that it has a slight trashy feel about it with a strange dark sub context which makes the audience know that something is not right in the state, it is fantastic that such a song should exist and be given major praise around the world. Art Rock is a strange beast indeed and lives in some interesting places. The final track of the album is the 11 minute plus "Supersymmetry" - with this track they take their time to point, but it sort of drifts in and at in places and does not make much sense if I'm honest. The ending samples I think might be a mirror image of the hidden samples at the beginning of the first disc, so I feel I might be getting half the story here, a shame of some sorts.
So is this a case of a great change, the emperor’s new clothes or somewhere inbetween? To be honest I'm not 100% sure which one. It is a good album, but that their last two and worth a listen. But it could have had some of the fat trimmed off and been out of this world if the truth be told. But that is talking about what could have been, what we have here is an album that is more of a grower than an instant hit, each listen revealed more about it to me. There are little things which keep on coming and hidden moments that come to the forefront upon different listens depending what you are focusing on. As a producer James Murphy has helped this band a lot here and the production on this album is probably the best I have heard this year, the band have released something very good. If it is to be a classic is not for me to say here, time will tell but it is one I have a feeling I will be returning to. Now if only they would sort out their sodding website......
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the band's website here (not much going there at the moment , was slightly disappointed as I would have thought it would have been more art and stuff - hey, Arcade Fire, your website is poor, get it sorted)
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
You can view the album for the title track here - the video probably has all the art which was lost from the website. (Honestly, for an art rock band - that website is lazy, the video is good though).