The Allure | Arcade Fire + Cut Copy

The Allure | Arcade Fire + Cut Copy

Two Compelling Bands, Two Elaborate Album Campaigns

by Joshua P. Ferguson

The year isn't even over and it might have already secured the distinction, Year of the Band as Brand. First, there was Daft Punk's mission to return album launch campaigns to the days of traditional media, weaving its teasers for Random Access Memories into commercial breaks for SNL, plastering its album covers on building facades and billboards, and tantalizing the rolling—er, Molly-enhanced, masses at Coachella with music video clips from the jumbotrons in between sets. (Ok, so this last one isn't exactly retro.) 

Then, there was Boards of Canada, who hid white labels of new material in the record bins of the merch table at the Pitchfork Festival.

While these are a break from the millennial norm, each and every one seems downright novel compared to Cut Copy broadcasting its new single exclusively from six remotely placed billboards in Chile, Detroit, Mexico City, somewhere in the UK, in its native Australia, and in a desert in California, the signal only available if you're in the vicinity of said billboard. The locations of each were released via strings of coordinates, not unlike Walter White keeping tabs on his meth money.

Not surprisingly, Arcade Fire took the esoteric campaign approach one further, launching an anonymous Twitter account, a mysterious graffiti campaign using a newly designed "REFLEKTOR" symbol-logo, and a music video that asks permission to access your phone or PC's webcam so it can incorporate your face as the scenery unfolds. Reflektor indeed. 

Such elaborate guerilla marketing has long been a tool in the box of advertising agencies as they imbue cool onto whatever salty snack, alcoholic beverage, or energy vapor that's the next hot item, but in the recording industry, these tactics strike me, at least, as being a clever break from the Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter friend, like, and tweet campaigns that have dominated album releases since the advent of social networking. The question is, does the material live up to these whacky campaigns that are such a joy to follow on the music blogs?

Thankfully, in each case, it's a resounding yes. Daft Punk's record is an intricate and masterful retro-futuristic accomplishment and Boards of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest has maintained its eerie chill well. In the case of Cut Copy and Arcade Fire, we've got a single a piece to glean what's to come. The Aussie dance outfit's "Free Your Mind" sees them progress further into psychedelic dance territory, drenching Dan Whitford's silky vocals in trippy effects as a storm of tropical percussion, uplifting piano, jungle noises, and chattering sound bytes brews around them. The clashing dissonance of the opening minutes might catch some off guard, but by the raucous finale most Cut Copy fans will be basking in these winds of progress.

Arcade Fire's ongoing development as a band is one that places it even more squarely within the Dialogue Inc's preferred sound—a feat we didn't think possible coming off "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)." From the second the opening drum fill of "Reflektor" sets the pace for the upbeat punk funk snare, congas, and plodding synth work that follow, James Murphy's production influence is immediately apparent, but never overpowering. This is rock that moves but not to be mistaken for indie dance or the like. Win Butler and Regine Chassagne's call and response is as potent as ever, and that touch of discontent that underpins Arcade Fire still runs strong as distorted chords warp, twist, and disfigure, above the subtle dance beat that's keeping time. Bonus: David Bowie makes a vocal cameo. 

These are two inventive campaigns that portend of great things to come.


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