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Arcade Fire - Funeral

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 23 / 1 / 2005

Arcade Fire - Funeral
Label: Merge Records
Format: CD


Seminal indie guitar rock on debut album from the soon-to-be-much-hyped Arcade Fire, which has already won ecstatic reviews in America, and is soon to take Britain by storm

I admit it, I admit it. I just couldn’t wait. The late February release date for this album just seemed so long away, even though I had held back for a while, I couldn’t wait any more. The ecstatic reviews the information super highway has transported across the Atlantic made me very excited. When this album climbed to the summit of every American album of the year poll I saw last month I gave up waiting. Apparently, I am not alone. Due to popular demand 'Funeral' will be making its iTunes debut a good month before it sees a UK release on Rough Trade. But for geek points’ sake, if nothing else, can I take the time to point out that I am reviewing the Merge records version of this album, an import version of which will set you back less than the imminent Rough Trade version, if you look in the right places (or Amazon.) Make no mistake; this album is going to be hyped. Perhaps not to the scale of the White Stripes but you can safely assume that every prominent critic (except the grouchy ones who wrote for NME in the 70's ) will be lining up to acclaim or savage this album. The savaging may do it as much good as the praise. So, does it merit the attention? This album has lived on my stereo for a long time now, and it really does feel like it is a special album. The pianos that lead us in are replaced by a droning, repetitive bass line over which more and more instruments join a crescendo. Win Butler eventually locks into a melody, and tells of a young man sneaking out to meet his girlfriend whilst his parents weep together in their bedroom. The pulse and daring emotion of the track suggest that the band is aiming for nothing less than a classic. As the instruments parade by, it feels as if the band is unveiling the tricks it will build the rest of the album around. Of the first five tracks, four are titled 'Neighbourhood'. The second has a driving rhythm and a shouted vocal line, as Butler contemplates a brother’s suicide. Track three, 'Une Année Sans Lamiere' is not part of the Neighbourhood series, and its pretty guitars, drums, and droning keyboards give the impression of someone escaping the claustrophobia of the house for a cleansing walk in the rain. It is a moment of calm, but one that carries that distinct impression that it is fleeting, confirmed when the guitars burst back in at the end. 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' is built around edgy guitars and a driving pop beat with leaping glockenspiels and violins. As Butler goes out seeking a fight, he sounds like a man who has lost all reason and the band effectively convey his trauma in the music. 'Crown of Love' is a bitter love song, starting ominously with a thudding piano, but soon erupting into a quite beautiful chorus backed by Regine Chassagne’s lush vocals, as Butler pleads “if you still love me, please forgive me?” As violins soar, and Butler takes his limited vocal chords as far out as they go, the Arcade Fire reach an energy rarely matched, and as such the songs upbeat coda is the only possible response. 'Wake Up' is the band’s anthem, as the band become a choir and the band reach once more for a sound appropriate to soundtracking raw emotions. Butler can’t offer much hope, and instead screams, ‘I guess we’ll just have to adjust’. The band are able to work the tools of the finest post-rock bands in an indie pop setting, and it is deeply impressive. Eventually they shamelessly borrow the riff from ‘Lust For Life’ and I defy anyone not to forget themselves by the end of the song. '“Rebellion (Lies)' is perhaps the least instant song here, being more rhythmic than melodic, but repeated listens mark it out as the most effective example of the Arcade Fire’s truly unique ability to harness tension and release it at precisely the right moment. As Butler repeats the phrase "every time you close your eyes", a key change is bliss. This truly deserves to be called anthemic. As Chassagne brings the album to a close, evoking Bjork with her vocals on 'In The Backstreet', it is very rare for me not to want to hear the album again. My quibbles are few. There are only ten songs. The Americans got to hear it first, and why the six-month delay on its British release? It makes our Albums of the Year polls look out of date! ‘Funeral’ is a very, very sad album. The emotional content is real, as the band suffered the loss of several close family members in its making. It is an unashamedly ‘indie’ album, with no musical or vocal virtuosity. The Arcade Fire have clearly decided to try and make a classic. My guess is that they’ve succeeded. I’m about to hit that repeat button.

Track Listing:-
1 Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
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

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live reviews

Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, 27/11/2007
Arcade Fire - Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, 27/11/2007
One of the most talked about live acts of recent years, Jamie Rowland watches Arcade Fire play an amazing set to a capacity audience at the vast Manchester Evening News Arena

digital downloads


Arcade Fire Ep (2005)
Re-release of superb self-titled 2003 from highly acclaimed Montreal collective Arcade Fire

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