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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Arcade Fire: Funeral

I must begin with a disclaimer. There seems to have been a misinterpretation of my intentions with this “column.” I am not, in fact, going to purchase new music every week and write about it here so you all will know whether or not to buy it. I just do not have the funds for that activity, sadly. Rather, this is a chance for me to write about the music I already have in my life because there’s plenty already here that moves and inspires me. Unfortunately, that means that several of my most faithful readers already own the music they will be reading about. Hopefully, that will not deter them.

My love affair with Arcade Fire began around the winter of 2006, when my brother stuck his iPod earphones in my ear and played me the ridiculously brilliant tempo change in “Crown of Love” from their album, Funeral. I admit, I wasn’t convinced just from that listen.

Somehow the entire album came into my consciousness. The first track, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” grabbed me from its first airy piano notes and ascending guitar. The piano sounds like its being played underwater. Or is water. And then I started listening to the lyrics: “And if the snow buries my…my neighborhood. And if my parents are crying. Then I’ll build a tunnel, from my window to yours.” Later in the song, the lyrics tell of letting their hair grow long and living out in the snow. It’s reminiscent of Postal Service’s “Brand New Colony,” illustrating a powerful need to escape from life with someone, but here he’s singing about it with a passion that is somehow melancholy.

This album is sort of a smorgasbord. It careens from arena-anthem-like chants in “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Wake Up,” which apparently U2 plays in their intermission, to near whispers in “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” (one of the bandmates originates from Haiti) and the use of haunting strings and a perfectly tuned tea kettle in “Neighborhood #4 (Kettles).”

“Crown of Love” is the crown jewel of the album, in my opinion. I didn’t quite understand the full resonance of it until I listened through the entire song and I continue to be floored by it. The song made me want to write epic novels, fall in and out of love, and run through the rain in summer all at the same time. It’s a stunningly orchestrated song, complete with violins that sneak up on you, vocal whispers in the background, a piano that cannot be contained, heartbreaking lyrics (“They say it fades, if you let it. Love was made to forget it. I carved your name across my eyelids. You pray for rain; I pray for blindness”), and a driving, suspenseful refrain that explodes into near-frenzied proportions. I think they must refuse to play it live because everyone would just spontaneously combust.

The album’s denouement begins with one of the band’s most famous songs, “Rebellion (Lies).” It begins with a driving drum beat, the kind that instigates a crowd to begin jumping up and down. I think it’s a song about an illicit affair; I don’t really know. But the star of that song is the key change within the chorus. It cuts like a knife. Every. Single. Time.

I must admit ignorance to the meanings of most of these songs and, being such an analyzer, that’s a difficult admission. But this is one of those albums in my world that I love because the music just grabs me in the first seconds and makes me die inside. And that’s a good thing.


bon said...

i love every single fucking thing about this album.
i was listening to it on the drive back up to oakland after my grandfather's funeral service two years ago, literally bursting into tears during that epic ending of "Rebellion (Lies)" while i was driving over the san mateo bridge during a rainstorm- because the song and weather were so beautiful, not because i was so sad (that's what it felt like at the time). then i realized that the album was called Funeral. fitting.

Rachiewrites said...

It sounds like one I'd better get familiar with.