Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The Arcade Fire
In the past, I had been aware of a lot of beauty in the world. I am a sucker for sunsets, sappy movies make me cry and most young children are just too cute. Yet nothing can compare to these like an amazing musical concoction. A blend of the senses, sending me on a journey of sound and wonder.
A stew with all the right ingredients.
There aren't many albums that have moved me in the way that these albums have:
*Radiohead - OK Computer, The Bends
*Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy, Souljacker
*The Clash - London Calling
*Led Zeppelin - II, Zoso
*Pink Floyd - The Wall, Wish You Were Here
*The Beatles - Revolver, Abbey Road
*Sweetheart Tripwire - Holiday's Over
And more recently, Death Cab For Cutie's transatlanticism. These are all albums that have opened my ears to new sounds, opened my eyes to new bands and opened my heart to some amazing music.
But I am always searching for something new. I found that on Friday.
Andrew Aschenbrenner had told me about The Arcade Fire a few months ago and I decided I'd wait to listen because if I listen I have to purchase. I have no self control.
So I listened on Friday at Barnes and Noble. And I purchased on Friday at Barnes and Noble.
Now, beauty is a very relative thing and relatively speaking, some of you will not find this album beautiful. For starters, the title is Funeral and was named that because of all of the family members that died during the years up to the making of the album. Quite a name for a debut album.
Husband and wife team Win Butler and Régine Chassagne lead the eleven person ensemble (15 on "Wake Up"). This ensemble is responsible for over 20 different instruments and many string arrangements. Each track has strings flowing all over and words spilling out like a melodic waterfall.
Four of the first five tracks on the album have to do with a non-specific neighborhood, showing how important family and community is for the band. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" is a beautifully orchestrated opener, beginning with piano and guitar. Win sings of a man whose parents weep in the next room while he "digs a tunnel" from his window to his lovers window. They dream of living a life in the center of town, growing old and trying to remember their past lives.
"Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" screams of middle-class alienation, possibly exuding from Win's own upbringing in Montreal. The urban tension can be felt in the screeching violins and driving bass line.
The wonderfully simple "Une Annee Sans Lumiere" is just awesome. Nuf' said.
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" is the rocking powerhouse centerpiece of the album. A driving force from beginning to end, it does not let up. It starts in a creepy sort of 'New Order minus the electronics' way and turns into a poppy driving force with intense lyrical phrasing and emotional uprising (And the power's out in the heart of man/ Take it from your heart/ Put it in your hand).
The beautiful "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)" is just that: Beautiful. Soft acoustic guitar and soothing strings in the background make me put this track on repeat. It is about time and how it keeps moving on... (They say a watched pot won’t ever boil/ well I closed my eyes and nothin’ changed/ just some water getting hotter in the flames).
"Crown of Love" is a depressed lover pleading for forgiveness from the love of his life. He bellows (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). The strings keep a slow steady beat until near the end of the song when everything moves into near double time and rocks even harder, taking you along for the ride.
"Wake Up" is a great rock tune with guitar distorted the way God wanted it to be. Also each of the 15 people who collaborated on this track singing in chorus adds a great effect.
"Haiti" is a lighter song with soft driving drums, piano and electric guitar. Régine sings of her family from Haiti, singing eerily violent vocals (Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see) and making it clear that her family escaped Haiti during a dangerous time in Haiti's history (In the forest we are hiding/ unmarked graves where flowers grow/ Hear the soldiers angry yelling/ in the river we will go).
The newest single from the album, "Rebellion (Lies)" is a great poppy anthem that shows Butler's intense appeal for realizing that mortality is inevitable (People say that you’ll die/ faster than without water/ but we know it’s just a lie/ scare your son, scare your daughter). The song also has a powerful refrain with (Every time you close your eyes/ Lies, Lies!) with various band members belting out "Lies, Lies!"
The final track and greatest way to end an album since Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out) is definitely the wondrously light and hushed "In the Backseat". Régine sings of sitting in the backseat of a car (I like the peace in the backseat/ I don’t have to drive/ I don’t have to speak/ I can watch the country side/ and I can fall asleep). She also confronts her fear of driving with (I’ve been learning to drive/ My whole life).
The album ends with an incredibly slow fade of strings flowing together and very slowly becoming softer until the silence leads you to realize that the album's over and you are back in the real world, not in a neighborhood, running from soldiers in Haiti or in the backseat of a car. You're safe.
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being Yourself or Someone Like You and 10 being OK Computer, this album earned The Bends
Honestly, pick this album up today.