The Unbelievable Bargains review Arcade Fire’s Reflektor

The first in a new series on the Spectator Tribune in which local artists review big album releases. This week: Winnipeg’s The Unbelievable Bargains on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor.

We don’t know nuthin’ ’bout nuthin’, probably least of all the band Arcade Fire, but what the heck, we’re gonna review the new album, ‘Reflektor’ anyhow.  Steve is feeling sick and delirious and Marshall is so hungry.  So let’s just take these songs as they come.  This is gonna be fun, right?

1) Reflektor

Marshall:  This song is pretty cool – it’s about three times as long as it should be, but its got a good guitar part, so whatever.

Steve:  When this song came on, I thought I’d put on ‘Big Thing’ by Duran Duran.  Now that’s all I can think about. The bass sounds cool and fuzzy.

2) We Exist

M:  My brain keeps trying to make this one sound like the Bee Gees, but it just can’t do it and I’m left confused and unsatisfied.

S:  What would people be doing at a live show during this song?  Dancing?  Looking?  I feel like it’d be weird to be sitting watching this music, but I don’t know how one would dance, except arms straight out y’know, just rockin’ (back and forth).  Very hypnotic, although so are lights to me right now.

3) Flashbulb Eyes

S:  Kind of a reggae thing going on?  Maybe this explains why my parents gave me an Arcade Fire CD and a Bedouin Soundclash CD for Christmas that one time (actually it was an article in Maclean‘s I think).  Weird.  I wonder if my headphones are on backwards.  Things are panned funny.  Whoa this song is over already.

M:  I’m all hung up on how the “hit me with your flashbulb eyes” line strikes me as, like…dumb. I don’t wanna hear him say it again.

4) Here Comes the Night Time

S:  This is the first song I‘m not really that into, although that little steel drum sounding thing (steel drum perhaps?) is pretty fun, if distracting.  But the part after sounds really action movie or something.

M:  Nah, it’s good. For once the song length is kind of justified here. That repetitive, droning, industrial noise is pretty alright, I think. There’s a piano part that is just about totally off time. I’m calling this the highlight of the album.

5) Normal Person

S:  Something about the singing makes me think of Tim Finn, but in a ‘Big Thing’ context.  Also the whole ‘normal’ thing is reminding me about being too sick to go see “Harvey” tonight.  🙁

M:  He starts by suggesting he’s maybe not too into rock’n’roll music, and then proceeds to rock’n’roll on this song. I dunno. There’s a cool guitar thing where they hit all the right wrong notes. Good.

6) You Already Know

M:  Clap track! Yeah!

S:  This one I drifted away on.

7) Joan of Arc

S:  This one sounded like it was going to go into a big punky number, then it went into that Gary Glitter drum beat. Were those keyboards or a soprano lady? At that one part?

M:  It sounds like someone put my speakers in a paper bag. This song went by like it didn’t even happen and I didn’t even care.

8) Here Comes the Night Time II

M:  I’d say it’s kind of daring to start side two with a really boring song, but I’d be wrong – it’s just boring. This one started with the “beginning of a tape” noise though, which was a nice thing to have done.

9) Awful Sound

S:  I went to the washroom and still had this song in my head, and had a vision of a gymnasium set up for a high school dance or something, but after the dance had ended when everyone had gone home, just streamers and coloured lights.

10) It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)

M:  I hope I don’t have to hear too many people singing along to “Hey, Orpheus!” over the next couple months, but I probably will cause it’s one of the few really memorable moments in the album – if only because it’s so irritating.

S:  I’m still thinking about empty rooms, or maybe caves?  I don’t get scenes with people when I visualize this music.

11) Porno

M: “Awful Sound” would have been a more apt title for this one – that pulsing whine is physically painful.

S: Pew pew pew! (Steve needs to go to bed.)

12) Afterlife

M:  I’m getting really tired of this guy’s voice, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this song four times already on the album. Am I allowed to just skip to the last song, and then skip that song too?

13) Supersymmetry

M:  I’m not even paying attention anymore.


M: The album starts pretty cool and has at least four songs that I’d have a nice time listening to again, but the second side drops straight off the cliff into Snoozetown. Who told these guys it was okay to make every song almost 7 minutes long? It’s an 80 minute album that would have been more effective as a 15 minute EP. Even its high-points do nothing to help explain why I’ve been hearing people sing the praises of these guys for ten years.

S: I liked a lot about the album, even if it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  I agree with Marshy about the length, at least for a casual/ill listener it was a bit wearying.  Fuzz bass is cool, as was a lot of the drum/percussion stuff.  I found the moody, repetitive feel pretty entrancing, especially in my feverish state (it can be hard to enjoy the psychedelic side of being sick, but reviewing this album thrust that opportunity upon me, which was cool).  It seems like an ‘everything in it’s place’ sorta thang, very meticulously crafted, almost clinically so.  I don’t think I ever got past the ‘constructed’ feeling I got from it, which for me was a stumbling block for having anything like an emotional reaction.

So yeah, uh…would Arcade Fire fans like it?  We don’t know.  Maybe?  Probably?

Steve and Marshall play equally criticisable songs in the Unbelievable Bargains. They’re doing a Halloween thing at the Rose n’ Bee on Friday, November 1st with Surprise Party and The Band Who Fell to Earth. You could go to that thing, maybe. Listen to them on Soundcloud, and they’re on Facebook.