In retrospect the year 2004 was quite a turning point for the indie-music scene. Not only did FRANZ FERDINAND release their influential self-titled debut and influenced a whole generation of British and international guitar bands. Only a couple of months later something musically quite different hardly comparable but still with the same importance happened in Canada. A Montreal-based collective of musicians called ARCADE FIRE released an album called Funeral on September 14, ten years ago. Quite quickly the record spread like a… well, fire… and convinced music journalists, fans and other musicians to praise these eight Canadians as the saviours of independent music. DAVID BOWIE performed with them a few months later and even Bono acknowledged the changing of the guard and made Wake Up the official intro of U2’s Vertigo tour.
Over the past ten years ARCADE FIRE slowly but steady made their way out of the inner circle of the musical feuilleton and into the mainstream without ‘selling out.’ Three albums followed Funeral; each somehow different to the other but combined by the band’s musical talent and love for big gestures. While a bigger part of the public funnily still asked ‘Who the f**ck is ARCADE FIRE?’ after the band’s The Suburbs won a Grammy for best album in 2011, questions like these become rarer these days. Ten years later ARCADE FIRE are what THE NATIONAL’s Matt Berninger called them in an interview with NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION, ‘the world’s biggest indie band.’ And despite frontman Win Butler discovering his ‘inner Bono’ and a few more visual ideas ARCADE FIRE’s best excuse for slowly entering stadiums all over the world remains their music. It was good from the very early beginning on but just needs a bit time before a majority of the people might recognize that fact. If you belong to the group of unbelievers we bring you ten arguments that could change your mind. To celebrate the tenth release of ARCADE FIRE’s Funeral we selected the group’s finest songs to date.
Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)
The one that started it all. A gentle piano play opens Funeral before Win Butler sings us a love song by a couple separated in two different houses. It could be so easy. ‘You climb out of the chimney and meet me in the middle.’ And if that doesn’t help they might as well dig a tunnel. It’s like the song opens a fairytale, one about love and death, called Funeral.
Ready To Start
Despite their current state in the contemporary music scene ARCADE FIRE never actually had what you call a ‘traditional single hit.’ Maybe that’s not the worst thing as it helped to define them as an ‘album band.’ Still, they always have a bunch of catchy pop pieces. The energetic and uplifting Ready To Start is the perfect example.
The world is a bad place. The band’s sophomore 2007 album Neon Bible mainly deals with that aspect and also confronts the listener with the desperate wish of escapism via ignorance or death (see next track). Windowsill is a quite underrated melancholic piece of the group that deals with that overwhelming feeling. Sometimes you just want to close the door, cover the blinds and ignore what goes on outside. We’ve all been there.
No Cars Go
The ironic aspect of the epic No Cars Go is that the magical place the band sings about is actually a life after death. A place where nobody goes, it is quiet, peaceful and outstanding. Mixing that bitterness with an uplifting spirit – it’s what the band is best at.
Well, the question is legitimate. ‘Is anything as strange as a normal person?’ ARCADE FIRE question the state of individuality and conformity in this banging lo-fi rocker from last year’s Reflektor. Not just because of its message the track has already become a live favourite of the fans. It’s nice to see the band slowly discovering their edgier and grungier side.
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Just when you thought ARCADE FIRE already tried out various new musical experiments on 2010’s The Suburbs their comes this 80s influenced piece of synthpop called Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). It’s just too fitting for Regine Chassagne who lets her inner KATE BUSH break loose dances toward the sunrise.
While Chassagne’s roots in Haiti had an even bigger impact on the Reflektor record this tender piece of tropical pop from Funeral already hinted this special connection. ‘Ma famille, set me free / throw my ashes into the sea.’ The singer constantly switches between English and French as the music dances around her. The love and the connection are clearly sensible.
It truly is an awful word like Butler calls it in the song and once again ARCADE FIRE discuss the aspect of death in an uplifting piece of pop. Compared to No Cars Co the grooving Afterlife puts the topic in a smooth disco setting. Celebrating the inevitable; something the band also learned from their trips to Haiti.
Pumping drums, screaming choirs, big words. Even ten years later, Rebellion (Lies) is still a powerful call to arms, an ode to resistance and uprising. ‘Everytime you close your eyes – lies.’ They are everywhere; in the media, the politics and sometimes even in our hearts. Everybody is invited to interpret the words in their own way.
My Body Is A Cage
And just when you think it can’t get any bigger. The closing track of Neon Bible truly is one of the band’s finest moments. A slow start and a suffering soul dominate the first minutes of the track. ‘My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love’ sings Butler as he is longing for redemption and a way of breaking out of the own limitations. Then the band joins him, slowly unfolding an epic monster and making this track larger than life. ‘Set my spirit free’ begs Butler in the end. The existential struggles of life packed into epic pop songs – it truly marks the strength of ARCADE FIRE. On to the next ten years.