Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Light a candle for the kids, Jesus Christ don't keep it hid"

#23 Funeral, The Arcade Fire, Merge, 2004

In the Fall of 2004, I found myself rummaging through stacks of new releases at CD Alley in Chapel Hill. When I came upon a slim, interestingly designed record in the mix the clerk said "I think that's going to be huge this winter." I had read about the Arcade Fire online and had heard some initial good reviews, but budgetary restraints kept me from adding it to my bag that day. A few weeks later, I noticed the record was up on iTunes and decided to give it a listen. I was so struck by the uniqueness and undeniable pull of the sound that the next day I skipped lunch to go get the album. Driving back to Cato from Chapel Hill, the sounds of "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" blasting from the stereo, I knew I had found something that would get me through the winter.

Granted, much like Lionel's Bright Eyes fetish, this one comes with some baggage. The acolytes of the Fire are many and they and their belabored obessession are not to be trusted. But, much like many misguided sects, they have an origin in truth: the clear-eyed brilliance of Funeral. If there's one thing Funeral encapsulates, its a clairvoyant, youthful will to truth. "The pains of love, and they keep growin', in my heart there's flowers growin' on the grave of our old love, since you gave me a straight answer," lead singer Win Butler opines in "Crown of Love," which marks the trademark Arcade Fire formula of heavy strings, disco percussion, and group vocals. The urge to find truth in the face of death certainly dominates the record (several family members of multiple band members died during the recording of the album, leading to its title), and this melodramatic impetus certainly has lead to criticisms of mawkishness in the record itself as well as in its followers. But when I hear what might be the best anthem of the double aughts, "Rebellion (Lies)," I can't help but draw comparisons with another classic teenage anthem: "Smells Like Teen Spirit." While Nirvana are heads and shoulders above the Arcade Fire, and far more important to music, the ripple effect of musical imitators and fanatic aesthetes in their wake can certainly be applied to the case of Arcade Fire as well. And, much like Nirvana, this cultural effect can detract from the music. But this detraction, at least for me, is only true when I'm not listening to Funeral. Whenever the pounding beats of "Rebellion (Lies)" or the powerful crescendos of "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" or the familiar swagger of "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" reach my ears, I can't help but love it. Even emotive closer "In the Backseat," with its slightly off-key female lead and piercing strings, speaks the truth of the future: "My family tree's, losing all its leaves." Leave it to the youth of Montreal to tell it like it is. And in danceable form, no less.

1 comment:

jphillip said...

Hearing "Wake Up" as U2 took the stage in Atl was pretty incredible.

"Rebellion" is definitely my favorite track and starts off many a morning on the way to work.