In the countdown to its highly anticipated fourth album "Reflektor" (out Oct. 29), Arcade Fire is challenging fans to embrace its new, dark-disco sound. If the album's second single “Afterlife” — which premiered yesterday (Oct. 21) on "BBC Radio 1" — is any indication, the Montreal-based band hasn’t changed too much.
On “Afterlife,” frontman Win Butler still sounds like he's searching for the answers he sought on the band’s Grammy-winning third album, "The Suburbs," but the guitars have been replaced by new wave synths and the beat is more uptempo than tracks like “We Used to Wait.” “Afterlife” doesn’t build like a typical Arcade Fire anthem, but achieves its tension in the way Butler and his wife/bandmate Régine Chassagne exchange call-and-response refrains. The lyrics hint at the band’s struggle to evolve under the shadow of its previous success: "And after all the hangers-on are done hanging on to the dead lights / Of the afterglow."
Arcade Fire has even adopted an alter-ego to avoid comparisons to its former folk sound, calling itself the "Reflektors" at recent appearances. On last night's "Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert introduced the brothers Win and Will Butler as members of the Reflektors a.k.a. “the Steely Dan of Canada," then asked if they identified with the "pretentious" band Arcade Fire.
Those freaky, bobble-head masks the band introduced during its "Saturday Night Live" performance last month reappeared on "The Colbert Report" and at the band's "secret" shows over the weekend as part of the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City — both times throwing off the crowd, during which time, the real Arcade Fire launched into its set.
At the two sold-out CMJ shows in Brooklyn, some fans didn't get the joke. On Friday, Oct. 18, the band played a seventy-five minute set dedicated primarily to new material. According to SPIN, the crowd booed when Butler explained that there wouldn't be an encore. Butler invited everyone to stay for a dance party, but apparently even after that, the audience seemed perplexed that the show was over.
Before "Reflektor" comes out, there will be another opportunity to hear the album in its entirety. On Monday, Oct. 28, NPR will stream the band's performance live from Capital Studios in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. PT.