FUNERAL by arcade fire

by Gordon
Pitchfork: 9.7           Rolling Stone: 4/5           Metacritic: 90           Spin: N/A


Released: September 2004
  1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) [LISTEN]

  2. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
  3. Une Annee Sans Lumiere
  4. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
  5. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
  6. Crown of Love
  7.  Wake Up
  8. Haiti
  9. Rebellion (Lies)
  10. In the Backseat

   Arcade Fire…one of the most influential artists on my taste in music after what I would call a late introduction in 2007. I knew I had heard tidbits from the band here or there prior, but I brushed the listenings off as coming from a weird group of musicians that tried too hard to make weird music (not so). Upon suggestion from a friend, I soaked up the album multiple times during our long studio hours. It changed me forever, not just because I was being turned on to a great new artist, but because I was being turned on to something much bigger…a new sound, a new attitude behind the instruments and the industry itself (and fashion). And i dug it.

   “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” opens the album with a piano-string combination that is both calming and urgent as Win Butler’s trembling voice begins to take over. Calculated guitar riffs and drum fills start to add to the anthem as the other instruments pick up in intensity. Butler’s emotion runs from reserved and innocent to loud and defiant (a characteristic trait) until the song ends in a frenzy of playing and “oohh-oohh-oohh-oohh-ooohhing” from the singer. Another powerhouse of a song is “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”, whose blaring guitars and excited percussion keep a fast pace from start to finish.

   “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” turns it back to a more relaxed pace (though still not slow by any means). The song, sung half in French, never gets Butler worked up enough to raise his voice too much, though before ending it can’t help but leave a minute of pace-changing guitar rocking. In the same vein, “Crown of Love” begins as a lovely piano and string ballad with Butler backed by wife and fellow bandmate Régine Chassagne. Halfway through, however, Butler’s intensity grows until he transfers the energy over to the drums and strings as they lead the song to a close in a choppy, almost dance-like beat.

   “Wake Up”, most likely the favorite of many, is an epic five and a half minutes of passionate vocals from Butler and anthemic  “Oooohhhs” to an inspiring tune from the entire band. It ends with a whimsical piano ditty and more shared vocals. The second to last song, “Rebellion (Lies)” IS my favorite song of all time. I can’t pinpoint exactly what did it for me, but it was probably a number of formulas I’ve come to love, all rolled into one. To begin with, it constantly builds on itself, constantly ups the ante, starting first with a steady drumbeat and bass line. Next comes a holding back Butler, accompained by a hard-hitting piano key that doesn’t let up for the duration of the song. Then the chorus, bringing with it guitars, strings and background vocals, at first in a catchy, positive tune, then switching to a minor and darker mood. It closes with a minute and a half of more instrument pounding and an occasional vocal reminder from Butler. If a song can make you feel alive, here we have audible proof. Singing along to the line “Sleeping is giving in” after 2 in the morning always gives you another good hour of awakeness.

   There are only a few songs on Funeral that I don’t give much attention to. Maybe I will when I’ve exhausted the others, though I fear that day may never come. This album will forever be monumental in my growth as a music listener and appreciator. Arcade Fire has opened up my ears to sounds and musical styles (and emotions) that will never leave me. Had they released an album with only one or two life-changing songs on it, the effect may not have been so great. But they released Funeral.

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