The danger for a rock band expected to make big, important albums is that they’ll end up with a big, self-important album. Call it the U2 syndrome. Arcade Fire, trailed by Rolling Stone as “the most important band of the last decade”, have tried to sidestep expectations by teaming up with a surprise producer, James Murphy, the New York dance music don behind LCD Soundsystem.
Opening with the title track, which casts the Canadians as a discorock juggernaut, Reflektor is the equivalent of The Clash’s Sandinista!, a widening of musical horizons, from reggae in “Here Comes the Night” and to the fractious postpunk dub of “Flashbulb Eyes”.
Split into two discs, the first half is sharp; the second sags. “After Life” messily dismantles a typical Arcade Fire anthem while “Supersymmetry” ends the album with an abstract ambient coda reminiscent of David Bowie’s Low (the man himself lends his vocals to “Reflektor”). A theme of mirror images and flipped doubles brings order to the sprawl: life and death, first and third world, the male and female voices of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. An overlarge but impressive album.