Arcade Fire have had no lack of a marketing plan for their new album, Reflektor (due out 10/29 via Merge), which has included SNL, an NBC special, mysterious murals, cryptic videos, and some random shows, including two in NYC during CMJ at 299 Meserole in Bushwick on Friday (10/18) and Saturday (10/19). Not the first time Arcade Fire was the talk of CMJ.
Formal attire or costumes were mandatory for the show, and as you may have heard, the first night began with a little "trick" from the band. Stereogum puts it like this:
[Fans] were let inside shortly after 8 PM and crowded around the small stage set up with some gear, setlists, and a Reflektors logo behind it. Ninety minutes later, "Reflektor" producer James Murphy took the stage with some bad news: "There's been a little snafu. We can only get three members right now. But it's going to be OK. I'd like to introduce the Reflektors!"Later, Win Butler apologized saying, "Sorry we played a trick on you, we just thought it was funny." He then continued saying it wouldn't be the last time they did something to be funny that no one else thought was funny, and some crowd members may have felt that way, when after their 75-minute set, Win returned to the stage to explain their lack of an encore. Via SPIN:
Three people in those familiar papier-mâché masks came onstage to jam awkwardly on bad reggae for a bit. Then, on the opposite side of the room, a curtain dropped to reveal the real, larger stage, where the real, larger Arcade Fire launched into "Reflektor." A chaotic stampede of kids in fancy suits and dresses ensued. Some were not amused.
"We're not playing any more songs," he said. "But we're going to play a bunch of dance music. We're going to come out and dance with you. If you guys want to hang out and dance, that's totally cool. But if everyone just stares at the stage, nothing's happening. So it's super awkward.""Tricks" aside, what Arcade Fire did do is debut more previously unheard tracks from their album, including "Flashbulb Eyes," "Joan of Arc," "Supersymmetry," and "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)," in addition to playing the other Reflektor tracks that have found their way online in one way or another. Only two older songs -- "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" -- were played though. Regarding those new tracks, Pitchfork writes:
The audience booed.
"I just wanted to explain it to you so you know that it's happening," he continued over the kvetching. "If that's super a bummer that we're totally going to dance with you and party all night, then I apologize. But otherwise, I'll see you on the dance floor."
[The songs] are darker, more self-aware, dancier, and--yes--trickier than anything Arcade Fire have done before. "We've all got something to hide," yelped Butler on an arena-ready version of "Reflektor", his foot on the monitor and his arm arched up over his head, Bono-style. And then, on the very next song, "Flashbulb Eyes", he sang, "You know I've got nothing to hide." It was a slippery, knowing contradiction from a band more known for stone-faced frankness. There are precedents for this kind of playful rock'n'roll about-face, of course--Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, U2's Achtung Baby, and R.E.M.'s Monster instantly spring to mind--but it's still a viable way forward for bands that have reached the top of rock's heap but aren't ready to call it a day or bask in past greatness just yet.Videos of those four previously unheard songs, the show's setlist, and more pictures from Friday night, below.
The goal is to thread the needle between fresh and familiar in order to keep everyone--band and fans alike--interested, and based on the new tracks shown off at the gig, Arcade Fire have done just that. Along with touching on 80s pop and new wave, their new sound also harkens back to the dance-rock revival of the mid-00s--understandable given Murphy's involvement--bringing to mind names like the Rapture, the Faint, and even Bright Eyes' 2005 foray into electronics, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.
UPDATE: Zane Lowe also just premiered the new Arcade Fire single, "Afterlife," which you can also hear below.
Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"
Arcade Fire - "Flashbulb Eyes" at 299 Meserole
Arcade Fire - "Joan of Arc" at 299 Meserole
Arcade Fire - "Supersymmetry" at 299 Meserole
Arcade Fire - "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)"
Arcade Fire at 299 Meserole Setlist:
Joan of Arc
It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Here Comes the Night Time