32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Fire and snow combine in wonderful harmony,
This review is from: Funeral (Audio CD)
In what is an increasingly generic indie scene, the Arcade Fire are like a breath of fresh air. Hailing from Montreal, Canada this five-piece (plus numerous other musicians) have also managed to release one of the debuts of the year.
With four of the first five tracks titled Neighborhood, the songs tell intimate stories of towns trapped in snowstorms, and the loss of relatives and friends. Yet despite the strong themes of death and loss, the romantic nature of the songs means that the resounding outlook is one of hope rather than despair.
This is evidenced in the opening song, Neighborhood 1. "I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours" sings Win Butler defiantly, accompanied by a striding rhythm and a lush, orchestral sound. It's the wealth of musicians which consistently lifts this album above the current crop of indie bands.
But despite the hymnal nature of the music, the Arcade Fire aren't afraid to crank the guitars up when necessary. Neighborhood 4 is suitably frantic, complete with crashing drums, and the chugging guitars of Wake Up are most effective. Yet it's the surprising twists in the songs which make this album so compelling. Just try not to smile when the elegant Crown of Love finishes with a dramatic disco beat.
Should Win Butler's yelping become too much, then Regine Chassagne's vocals should provide the perfect remedy. Sounding like a more palatable Bjork, she only appears as lead vocalist on Haiti and In The Backseat, but as a result, these tracks are made all the more special. On the latter, it's hard not to be moved when she proclaims "Alice died in the night" amidst a rousing chorus.
Many reviews have tagged the Arcade Fire as "a cross between the Pixies and the Polyphonic Spree". Certainly Butler's most crazed moments are reminiscent of Black Francis (and the lilting guitars of Une annee sans lumiere have a tinge of Bossanova-era Pixies about them), and the band seem to have a similar cultish aura about them as the Spree (although thankfully they're not in anyway gimmicky). And despite the band's otherworldly take on indie, the springy guitar and bass lines of Rebellion come across like an orchestral Interpol (no bad thing).
Yet this is an album and band which should be judged entirely on its own merits, of which there are many. With each listen, the music becomes bolder, more stirring, and offers something new. The Arcade Fire have already won over a lot of plaudits, hopefully they'll win over a lot more.
Key moments: Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels), Neighborhood 3 (Power Out), Crown Of Love, In The Backseat