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Arcade Fire: Reflektor 

For a band that's always leaned toward grandiosity, Arcade Fire seems a natural fit to take a stab at recording an era-defining double album, and that clearly seems to be their goal here.

Opener "Reflektor" proves that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Arcade Fire can spin gold from their divergent artistic visions. Arcade Fire brings sweep and Murphy adds intensity. And from the get-go, the song is an energetically bubbling triumph. Yet at the end of the 75-minute album, that searing thrill of the opening song is still the strongest impression.

That's the frustration with Reflektor. It's a well-constructed, ambitious, audacious dance-rock opera, expanding on the band's sound while lyrically delving into a convoluted but essentially consistent core of themes: alienation, modernity, isolation and identity. Catching the band's vibe and sticking with it makes for an enjoyable listen straight through. Yet aside from the excellent title track, Reflektor's best songs are among its shortest and most conventional—"Normal Person" and "You Already Know," in the middle of the first disc.

Even though it's overly long, there's not a great argument to be made in favor of pruning Reflektor. Given the album's scope and ambition, nearly everything here is essential to the mission. There's an inherent theatricality to the album, which combined with the band's big papier mâché heads seen in the "Reflektor" video promises for an incredible live show. But strictly in terms of songs, I count about a dozen from Arcade Fire's first three albums that are better than anything on Reflektor, save the title track.

More by Eric Swedlund

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