Arcade Fire Takes A Dancey Turn Down A Well-Trod Path

With a new record, the band Arcade Fire is trying to top their 2011 release, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Critic Will Hermes says that on Reflektor, they turn to dance music to try to reinvigorate their sound.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Canadian rock band Arcade Fire released their first record "Funeral" back in 2004 on a small independent label. But these days there's nothing small about them. Their third record, "The Suburbs," won a Grammy and the band's upcoming fourth album is one of the most anticipated releases of the year. It's after a much hyped appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and a half hour special on NBC. Will Hermes has this review of "Reflektor."

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WILL HERMES: Arcade Fire may have won an album-of-the-year Grammy for "The Suburbs," but that record struck me as kind of short on fresh ideas. This time they did what David Bowie, The Clash, Talking Heads and so many rock acts before them have done to reinvigorate their sound. They turned to dance music.

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HERMES: This is always a dicey strategy for rock bands, given the tribal rift that dates back to the rock versus disco battles of the 1970s. But wisely, Arcade Fire enlisted as co-producer James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, a guy who's done more to bridge rock and dance music than anyone in the 21st century. And the band shuffles through all sorts of danceable rock tropes like on "Joan of Arc," which mixes punk and glam rock stadium stomp.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOAN OF ARC")

ARCADE FIRE: (Singing) They're the ones that spit on you, 'cause they got no heart. I'm the one that will follow you, you're my Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc.

HERMES: My favorite tracks draw on Haitian and Jamaican music like this one, "Here Comes the Nighttime."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE NIGHTTIME")

FIRE: (Singing) Here's comes the night. Here comes the night, the night, the night time. Now the preachers they talk of (unintelligible). If you're looking for hell, just try looking inside.

HERMES: I'd like to hear the band go further with that Caribbean fusions. But "Reflektor's" really engaging, all 76 minutes of it. Unlike much dance music, the lyrics, which often address the vacancy of online culture, are actually worth unpacking. And when I saw Arcade Fire play some of these songs in a packed Brooklyn warehouse last week, it showed that good dance music, when used as intended, is a very effective cure for digital alienation. When you're fully shaking it in a room full of sweaty, good looking people, staring at your phone just seems stupid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFTERLIFE")

FIRE: (Singing) And after all the hangers-on are done hanging on to the dead lights of the afterglow. I've gotta know. Can we work it out? We scream and shout 'till we work it out.

BLOCK: The new album from Arcade Fire is "Reflektor." And you can hear the interview with the band on Monday on MORNING EDITION. Our critic Will Hermes is author of the book, "Love Goes To Buildings On Fire."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFTERLIFE")

FIRE: (Singing) 'Till we work it out. 'Till we work it out. 'Till we work it out. Afterlife. I think I saw...

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