Arcade Fire: Funeral
On the Arcade Fire website, Win (the frontman for the band) writes that one shouldn't put their life into creating a record and then scour the Internet looking for reviews. He adds that such an ordeal makes him feel paranoid and afraid. Such is my warning to Win. If you're not into another shovelful of praise heaped upon Funeral, click the X in the top right corner of this window now. However, if you'd like to hear a fellow Canadian's view (West Coast, not East) on what I consider to be one of the top 10 albums released this year, then please continue. Yet, be forewarned: there's praise here and lots of it. Besides, you earned it. Look at the all the politicians and bureaucrats who've tried their best to stifle arts programs in Canada and you come and give the world this great album amidst such adversity. That said, onto the review.
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" opens the album and immediately, you know you're in for something special. A few minor piano notes, slide some distorted guitar chords into there, and cue the vocals. The piano runs between synched notes and maniacal tapping. The drums comes a little harder and the highhat is going hard and fast. Lyrically, there's more than enough sorrow here, but with the sorrow comes such an instrumental force that it somehow hints at redemption. Through it all, the piano remains constant, a reminder of something lurking. There's a buildup to this song that dictates the entire album. Each time it happens through out the album, its as perfect and suited as it was the last time. As an opener, its perfect. It rocks out when its supposed to, taking just the perfect amount of time to get there. "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" starts off quasi-Joy Division and I can see where the comparisons come in; but they add more than just the 80s to their song. They combine styles and instruments to create a gorgeous collection of sounds, bits, and noise. Hard thumping drums, distant screaming double vocals once again provide the back drop for a build up that really highlites the drumming.
Taking it down a notch, "Une Annee Sans Lumiere" is a nod to French pop songs everywhere. The climax takes longer here and it does almost seem a little stressed, but somehow, it works. Somehow, by this point, 3 songs in, it almost doesn't matter when these tiny errors happen. Collectively, the songs work. I almost wish I could have given a play by play for my first listen to this album. I was literally floored and I immediately called up numerous friends and spend the remainder of the night holding the phone up to the speaker saying Listen, I'm telling you about these guy, just fucking listen, you'll thank me.
Find me a better song than "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" that has been released this year, and my record collection is yours. A cranky opening with some kick-ass glock, ripping guitar chords, screaming lyrics, there's nothing that music needs more than this song. Immediately following the quasi-Conor-Oberst-scream-fest comes "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)," a lightly picked Western-twinged, sample/noise/cello-laden wallop of a musical experience that would have Jeff Tweedy on his knees. A string section is brought in, almost to convince doubters that there's not much they can't do. 'Crown of Love' would have Nick Cave blushing. 4 minutes in, it shifts to a highhat intensive ass-kicker that once again builds up for 30 seconds, before quietly dying out and ending as gently as it began. I would be willing to put 20 dollars on Conor Oberst selling his guitar after hearing this song. Picking up where the build up left, 'Wake-Up' comes complete with heavy drumming, raunchified guitar chords and church choir vocals. This is a quasi-Polyphonic Spree megasong that will lift you to wherever you wanna go. Completely anthom-esque in its scope, this is the album's climax. Test your stereo on this one. 'Haiti' hints at the Caribbean, complete with steel drums and all, but the wailing vocals and great drumming keeps it from becoming an Esso Trinidad Steel Band cover. Regine's lyrics work perfectly with the brush drumming and the glockenspeil, creating yet again a blend of perfect sound.
80s in its scope, perfect in its delivery, "Rebellion (Lies)" is the new song for the new generation. Back-up vocals, synthesizers ripping the hell out of the chorus, a voice cracking, and a string section. It;'s all here. Repetititive hollers of "Every time you close your eyes" near the end lead nowhere, but at this point it doesn't matter. Regine's vocals a la Bjork open "In the Back Seat," the album's final song. Over 6 minutes long with 4 minutes of build-up, as a closer it's perfect. Piano build-up gets me every time and this song ends the album as perfectly and gracefully as it began. I'm not one to kiss the ass of bands that garnish absurd amounts of attention in a short span, nor am I one to believe any sort of hype (I still contend that The Pixies are over-rated and Frank Black should quit while he's ahead and that Franz Ferdinand are lucky as hell that somebody cranked the Hype-gauge to 11), but as a debut album, Funeral is near perfect. For me, it's up there with Desperate Youth/Blood Thirsty Babes and You Forgot It In People. It defies categorization, instead blending enough styles to fill the province of Quebec. Sure, there are nods to certain styles and bands, but not enough to convict them of piracy or plagiarism.
Autumn has recently blown its orange tinted self into the atmosphere, complete with winds and wet and rain and cold, but with The Arcade Fire secure in my stereo, I say come winter, come fall, bring your snow and ice, turn my leaves yellow; hell, you can blow my fucking house down as long as you promise to spare the stereo.