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Let's Admit It: Arcade Fire Is No Longer Any Good

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire
Photo courtesy of Merge Records

First things first: Back in 2004, I, too, drooled over Win Butler and Régine Chassagne and their intriguing French-Canadian brand of slightly-rocking je ne sais quoi. I danced to Arcade Fire music at parties. I nabbed overpriced tickets to their, very enjoyable, Neon Bible tour.

But in 2013, the year of Reflektor, mandatory formal-wear arena tours, and overwrought music videos -- I mean "short films" -- I think it's high time to admit that Arcade Fire is no longer any good.

Let's first give some credit where it's due: Once Funeral hit the Internet, Canada kicked off its indie-ensemble Renaissance. Think: Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, and The New Pornographers.

And, as the '00s evolved, the "underground" spat out even more sensitive, accordion and/or banjo-playing, sometimes-pastoral outfits: Fleet Foxes, The National, Local Natives, Freelance Whales, Grizzly Bear, Fanfarlo.

Not saying all of this is necessarily a good thing, but even if you didn't like the imitators, that wasn't necessarily Arcade Fire's fault.

But Reflektor is most definitely Arcade Fire's fault. Which is why it's time for the autopilot fans of the band to put on their ironic spectacles and take a clearer look.

On Funeral (which is 10 tracks) the band sounds like they're having fun: They experiment with tempo, and there are those nice jangling choruses. Sure, the solitude, existentialism, and detachment might be spooned on too thick at times, but it has a nice balance. A spoon full of melody helps the self-serious medicine go down, if you will.

The Suburbs is 16 tracks, and the double disc Reflektor goes off the rails, an overindulged slog of high-art themes, self-serving eggheadedness, and pompous, bloated ballads.

 

Is it too much to call Reflektor the Mount Everest of indie clichés? Lengthy, overly conceptual songs? Pointlessly long playing time? Cryptic titles with frequent parentheses usage? Pseudo-intellectual, liberal arts-pandering lyrics? Suffocating self-importance? Check check check check check.

Where they used to wow audiences with tight, scintillating, lively and pleasurable pop ballads, somewhere between Neon Bible and The Suburbs, the band's evolution has taken a wrong turn.

They've become weighed down by clunky concept and pretentiousness. Kinda like Kanye West, except without the good hooks or croissant memes.

Or else, like that kid in English class who has a lot to say, but often, but if you listen closely, he's not actually saying anything at all.

You know, that kid who's nowadays really into Reflektor?

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