Arcade Fire: hipster dilettantes or brave sonic adventurers? Their fifth album further muddies the waters. Each of their records has presented a band in flux, from the New Order indie rock of Funeral to the overreaching stadium affectations of Neon Bible and dancefloor-friendly aspects of the best bits (ie, those produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy) of Reflektor.
They’ve gone after one half of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter, on production duties, along with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. The results, though, are inconsistent. You may have already raised an eyebrow at the pan pipes and ABBA piano of the first single and title track, but much better is the dramatic disco-influenced Signs Of Life with frontman Win Butler half-rapping (don’t worry, it’s all good) and the retro electro vibe of the Barrow-produced Creature Comfort. It’s a powerful look at self-image and the facile nature of fame.
The electro dub of Peter Pan and cod reggae of Chemistry are less successful experiments. To show off their chops, two versions of Infinite Content are included, a punkish thrash and a country arrangement. Neither are particularly stellar and the choppy, Clash-apeing Good God Damn drifts by, too.
The insistent Put Your Money On Me and woozy We Don’t Deserve Love partially rescue matters but there are some missed opportunities here, for sure.