I listen too much music. But even those of us who listen to a lot of music sometimes miss amazing records, usually debuts, from small labels simply because most people want to hear about how much Britney Spears’ album sucked ass. The problems with music criticism is the increasing need to draw in eyeballs ( in a blogger’s case, page hits). This is the problem now with Rolling Stone. I really don’t think that some of those albums on their 2011 Best of list are what their dyed in the wool music writers really think are top fifty material. I also suspect that the one they named number one, while worthwhile as an album and on my list as well, they don’t really think is the number one. Seeing as big music names dominate that list, it’s hard to take the legendary magazine seriously anymore. I miss the Rolling Stone that decided to name London Calling the greatest album of the 1980s, even though it was technically released in December 1979, and was from the Clash, not Madonna or Prince.
Arcade Fire, though, saw their greatest success born out of music journalism. Specifically, 21st century music journalism. The success of the band started with Pitchfork. You all know Pitchfork, right? The much mocked and much respected zone where hipster music nuts with an obsession with the Merge Records roster congregate? Arcade Fire are the money makers of Merge. Anyhow, the band famously were trumpeted by the website as the next big thing. The release of Funeral not only made the Montreal based music collective fronted by husband and wife team Win Butler and Regine Chassange, it kinda made Pitchfork’s name as well.
The thing is that none of this would matter if the band didn’t deliver. They famously have done so, starting with the amazingly brilliant début album that is Funeral.
The album is freakishly beautiful and anthemic. A gaggle of talented musicians gather and play enough instruments for an entire orchestra while lamenting death and Canadian winters, it sounds comforting and explosively confrontational. The album is oxymoronic. It puzzles me. But it is simply just to beautiful to ignore, to in your face to dismiss. Arcade Fire in one go created themselves their own style and genre. They aren’t like anything else in the world.
There have been a handful of bands I have been devoted to since the first note I ever heard them play- The Kinks. The Smiths. R.E.M. Blur. The Beatles. Arcade Fire is among them. They impressed me with the sheer boldness of “Rebellion (Lies)” , which springs from the lovely “Haiti” that precedes it. One is the hymn for a troubled land leads to the brash violins and steady piano of the next, as the band creates their own version of a wall of sound, which whips up a frenzy to the point of ecstasy. Music that feels good even in the midst of the sadness and frustration.
And so it goes and so it goes, throughout the entire record. Unbearably lovely keyboard work populates songs like “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, “Rebellion (Lies)”, and “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” ( God, I’m a bit in love with Regine). The over the top spirit matches the strong songs like “Wake Up”, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”, and “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”. These extremes are balanced by tight musicianship and a thin theme about loss. Rarely has an album been so assured, nor a band so unlikely to overwhelm right off the first note.
The band’s surprising success, though, would cumulate only in 2011, seven years after Funeral was released, with a best album win at the Grammys. This led to the internet meme “Who The Fuck are Arcade Fire”. Simple answer, everyone.
They are the best band working now.
Try and deny me that after listening to this:
Their musicality, composition, lyrics, passion, love are simply inspiring.
I love this band without limit.