We recently made the case for
why the Eagles will end up in the dustbin of musical history. Among other things, the band kept shoving in peoples’ faces how big of a deal they were.
The problem is, bands that strive for immediate, contemporary relevancy are unlikely to make lasting contributions.
And with the arrival of Arcade Fire’s new album “Reflektor,” this generation now has its Eagles.
Here is a band that insists on telling you that their music is really, really important.
And they’ve let let everyone know that “Reflektor” is their most important album yet:
It is helmed by a famous producer.
And judging by the French lyrics sung within moments of the album’s opening track, along with the Rodin sculpture on the cover, it is meant to have world-historical implications.
But they can’t stop talking about ephemeral junk.
There’s the “critique of celebrity” song (“Flashbulb Eyes”).
There’s the “critique of technology” song (the eponymous track).
There’s the song called Porno (“Porno”).
Meanwhile, the sounds on “Reflektor” sink under the weight of their own bombast.
Sonically, that was never a problem for Henley and Frey. But it often happened whenever they strove for “concepts.”
Groups like Vampire Weekend or (early) MGMT seem to write music effortlessly, their songs emerging fully formed.
Arcade Fire seem incapable of doing this, so they must compensate with layer after layer of production. It’s the difference between arranging songs and just piling up a bunch of stuff.
At any given moment on the song “Normal Person,” for instance, you can hear a honky-tonk piano, a Nine Inch Nails synth, My Bloody Valentine guitars, and a triangle nicked from the E Street Band.
At least the Eagles’ hits were catchy enough to linger on the radio, however undeservedly. But every passing Arcade Fire album has contained fewer and fewer tracks you want to come back to. And it’s really difficult to find any here.
The lone candidate might by the eponymous lead track, which also happens to feature David Bowie. Bowie has never been able to resist riding the latest trend. But the real reason why people still listen to his music has more to do the sounds he helped create. The odds of that happening for this band seem slim.
Some albums make you feel like dancing. Some albums make you feel like being sad. But if all an album does is make you feel like you’re listening to an Arcade Fire album, something’s gone wrong.
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