The world wasn't always this fractured, and music wasn't always this fragmented. And Arcade Fire -- those Grammy-winning, ever-optimistic Canadians led by Win Butler and Regine Chassagne -- seek to bring back a bit of that historical unity on their ambitious new album "Reflektor" (Merge).
"If that's what's normal now, I don't wanna know," Butler sings in "Normal Person," where his vocals channel Talking Heads and the band struts through David Bowie's glam-rock period. The song rails against the mob mentality that seeks to stomp out those who are different -- a linchpin in "Reflektor's" main themes of acceptance and empathy.
To drive those thoughts home, they enlist the sounds of the most- welcoming musical era of recent times, the expansive '80s, where punk, indie rock, reggae, rap and dance music happily coexisted because they were all outside the mainstream. Arcade Fire brought in LCD Soundsystem honcho James Murphy, whose band traded in all those genres and more, to produce "Reflektor" and together they recreate that eclectic vibe well.
The title track brings back early '80s Bowie. "Here Comes the Night Time" brings in dub and some Clash-styled politics. "You Already Know" jangles like The Smiths, complete with Morrissey-like falsettos and Marr-ish guitar flourishes. "Afterlife" grooves over seemingly several reincarnations of New Order, while Butler ponders an eternity of arguments.
"Reflektor" is a rare mix of well-crafted and well-meaning, a musical "I'm OK, You're OK" that doesn't just accept differences but embraces them to build one of the best albums of the year.
THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE The ambitious reimagining of an eclectic '80s dance party.