I am writing to you from the edge of the new universe. This is a place that, just ten years ago, would have been hard to fathom. All this talk of ‘leaks’ and ‘deluxe online releases’ and ‘exclusive streaming’ and ‘takedowns’ is something that we’ve learned to live with as consumers of music in the 21st century. But this, the release and then almost universal removal of one of the world’s biggest band’s newest track, is something pretty unprecedented. I write this after an apparent ‘leak’ but just hours before an official release and accompanying video clip, feeling vaguely nauseous in some approximation of a twilight zone. If this is Arcade Fire saying fuck release cycles and record labels, fuck expectations and blogs, fuck buzz and opprobrium, fuck The Man and our entire discography to date, I am listening. In the new universe where spectacle is leak and retraction and re-release to spectacular applause, I happily count myself a member of the audience.
In this new universe though, apparently it’s no longer cool to be the best goddamn band in all of Canada, apparently you have to sign up an aging art rocker who is now suddenly relevant on the back of a March, 2013 release (his first in 10 years) and a spectacularly well-regarded electronic producer who no one believed for a minute when he said he was going to disband his outstanding electronic group a couple of years ago and is now proving he is the walking, producing exemplar of the phrase ‘You can’t keep a good man down’. Arcade Fire, the six piece from Quebec, Grammy Album Of The Year winners and all-round world-beaters, do not need any of this gimmickry. They don’t need a dance beat care of some wicked LCD Soundystem drums. They don’t need the cachet of David Bowie who, far more than Nile Rogers of Chic did to Daft Punk, unnecessarily complicates matters with a miniscule cameo and a whole lot of cultural/historical baggage. Moreover, they don’t need the mess-with-the-zeitgeist jerky release process.
And yet, they’ve got it all. And we’ve got ‘Reflektor’, a track that, in addition to all the superfluity outlined above, comes with dedicated visuals and shiny packaging and the breathless, most exuberant premature praise from everyone melting at the mention of the combination of all those superficial factors. I don’t know what the truth is. Suddenly, the best (alternative) rock band of our era is no longer an (alternative) rock band but a vehicle for celebrity mash-ups and the inescapable EDM-ization of every facet of cultural existence. The band’s fundamentals are too strong, though, to let such trifles worry them. Instead, they come to the table with the Win/Regine double team as potent as ever, the eventual introduction of strings (only a vestige of the lush instrumentation we’ve come to expect) and, naturally, french. The true worth and implications of this track are impossible to judge at this preternaturally early juncture. As a triumphal declaration of return, however, they don’t come much louder, more boppier or (now) more anticipated than Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor Ft. David Bowie