Indie-rockers Arcade Fire take on the big questions

Indie-rockers Arcade Fire take on the big questions

When you have it all, what's there to aspire to? What is the point? Why live?

These are some existential questions that probably afflict Arcade Fire, the Montreal indie-rockers who have become the most feted band of this century thus far.

Two years ago, nobody predicted their album, The Suburbs, would trounce releases by rapper Eminem and country-pop trio Lady Antebellum to nab the Grammys' biggest accolade, the Album of the Year.

When frontman Win Butler got to the mike, he uttered: "What the hell?"

"What the hell" would also be an apt response to their latest, Reflektor, a two-disc, 75-minute suite that touches on Very Big Themes.

They are influenced by Kierkegaard's essay The Present Age, seeing a similar disinterested reflection or lack of passion in modern times. At the same time, they are drawn to the Greek myth of lovers Orpheus and Eurydice who are doomed to be apart.

Sonically, they tether these concerns to a 21st-century hybrid of modern sounds, from New Wave to 1970s punk disco to electronica, all commandeered with panache by James Murphy, the honcho behind New York alt-dance collective LCD Soundsystem.

The results can be upsetting - but for the better. Rock disciples who love the band's lighter-lit, sing-along choruses of earlier hits such as Wake Up and Ready To Start would be baffled, digesting the messages and wondering whether they look cool shaking their tush.

"If this is heaven, I need something more," Butler sings on the title track, heart on sleeve, while wife Regine Chassagne comes in, over flashes of synths hot and cool, trumpets, Haitian drums and a godfather-like cameo by David Bowie.

It's a bit too much to unpack in one sitting. And so you shouldn't. Let the sounds and words wash over you - and the genius of Arcade Fire will be clear.

In Here Comes The Night Time - a love letter to Haiti - Butler pleads, "If there's no music in heaven, then what's it for?", over slippery carnival rhythms that will surely get both your limbs and grey cells moving.

Such is the inner/outer tumult: The band are fighting for your hearts and souls, and they are reaching out to you through centuries and continents.

Whether warning about the risk of looking back in It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus) or exalting the misunderstood heroine Joan Of Arc, they invoke myth, history and a cavalry of Haitian street musicians to make you feel, then take action.


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