Single Review: Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”

arcade fire

Arcade Fire’s fourth full length album ‘Reflektor’ is one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. Fever pitch was reached after it became known that former LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy, would be adding his two cents worth from behind the production desk. “Afterlife” is the second single to have preceded the release of ‘Reflektor’, and proves inexplicably just how far Arcade Fire’s elaborate and orchestral like sound has progressed since the release of their groundbreaking debut ‘Funeral’.

The introduction kicks off with a hypnotic and looped drum beat which showcases their affinity towards Haitian infused music. One can’t help but correlate this with Talking Heads who immersed themselves with rhythmical African sounds, circa ‘Remain in Light’. Though the underlying harmonies of “ooh ooh ooh’s”, are somewhat entombed within the song’s opening few bars, they are never completely unobtrusive to the ear.

Win Butler’s distinctive voice surges to the fore, once he utters the opening lines; “Afterlife, oh my God what an awful word/After all the breath and the dirt and the fires are burnt”, where he seems to despise the suggestion of an afterlife. Or at least the idea that only one form of it can can exist. The cacophonous, melancholic and euphoric arrangements, normally associated with Arcade Fire, enter the fray, in the form of the anthem-like chorus, where Butler and Régine Chassagne sing: “Can we work it out?/We scream and shout ’til we work it out/Can we just work it out?/Scream and shout ’til we work it out”.

The evidence of synth influences are powerfully echoed throughout “Afterlife“, which in turn paves the way for this Montreal based, musical juggernaut, to dip their hands into the coat pockets, of the more upbeat sounds of dance rock. And in doing so, tip their collective hats to the likes of mid ’80s New Order. The bridge – or middle 8 – adds a further dimension to “Afterlife”, where the group’s esteemed harmonising is allowed to take centre stage: “But you say/Oh/When love is gone/Where does it go?/And you say/Oh”.

The video which accompanies “Afterlife” is a collage of images from a 1959 film entitled ‘Black Orpheus’, which itself is a re-telling from Greek mythology. Its main character’s, Orpheus and Eurydice, are two people whose love for one another is unattainable in the here and now, but hope they can be reunited after death. Whether this is conceivable or not seems to be the question for which an answer is sought throughout “Afterlife“.

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