After stunning the mainstream pop machine into a state of huffy, new school e-disbelief by beating out Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry for the 2011 Album of the year Grammy, Arcade Fire seemed poised for a U2-style international coup, but the Suburbs, despite its stadium-ready sonic grandiosity, was far too homespun and idiosyncratic to infect the masses in the same way as the Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. Reflektor, the Montreal collective's much anticipated fourth long-player and first double-album, moves the group even further from pop culture sanctification with a seismic yet impenetrable 13-track set (at 75 minutes it’s one minute over standard single disc capacity) that guts the building but leaves the roof intact. Going big was never going to be a problem, especially for a band so well-versed in the art of anthem husbandry, and they're still capable of shaking the rafters, as evidenced by the cool and circuitous, Roxy Music-forged, David Bowie-assisted title cut, the lush, Regine Chassagne-led “It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” and the impossibly dense and meaty “We Exist,” but what ultimately keeps Reflektor from sticking the landing is bloat. The stylistic shifts, courtesy of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, aren’t nearly as jarring as the turgid and Tiki-colored, almost seven-minute “Here Comes the Night Time,” the six minutes of rewinding tape that serve as the coda for the otherwise lovely “Supersymmetry,” or the unnecessarily drawn-out fountain of white noise that should seamlessly connect the Gary Glittery “Joan of Arc” with the Flaming Lips-ian “Here Comes the Night Time, Pt. 2,” but doesn’t because the songs are on separate discs. Flush with artistic capital, they went on a bender, and in the process lost some of the warmth, jubilation, and capacity for empathy that made their first three efforts so inclusive. Nevertheless, Reflektor is as fascinating as it is frustrating, an oddly compelling miasma of big pop moments and empty sonic vistas that offers up a (full-size) snapshot of a band at its commerical peak, trying to establish eye contact from atop a mountain.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2