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Fronted by the husband-and-wife team of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the Arcade Fire's emotional debut - rendered even more poignant by the dedications to recently departed family members contained in its liner notes - is brave, empowering, and dusted with something that many of the indie-rock genre's more contrived acts desperately lack: an element of real danger. Funeral' s mourners - specifically Butler and Chassagne - inhabit the same post-apocalyptic world as London Suede's Dog Man Star; they are broken, beaten, and ferociously romantic, reveling in the brutal beauty of their surroundings like a heathen Adam & Eve. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)," the first of four metaphorical forays into the geography of the soul, follows a pair of young lovers who meet in the middle of the town through tunnels that connect to their bedrooms. Over a soaring piano lead that's effectively doubled by distorted guitar, they reach a Lord of the Flies-tinged utopia where they can't even remember their names or the faces of their weeping parents. Butler sings like Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood used to play, like a lion-tamer whose whip grows shorter with each and every lash. He can barely contain himself, and when he lets loose it's both melodic and primal, like Berlin-era Bowie or British Sea Power. "Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)" examines suicidal desperation through an angular Gang of Four prism; the hypnotic wash of strings and subtle meter changes of "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)" winsomely capture the mundane doings of day-to-day existence; and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," Funeral's victorious soul-thumping core, is a goose bump-inducing rallying cry centered around the notion that "the power's out in the heart of man, take it from your heart and put it in your hand." The Arcade Fire are not bereft of whimsy. "Crown of Love" is like a wedding cake dropped in slow motion, utilizing a Johnny Mandel-style string section and a sweet, soda-pop stand chorus to provide solace to a jilted lover yearning for a way back into the fold, and "Haiti" relies on a sunny island melody to explore the complexities of Chassagne's mercurial homeland. However, it's the sheer power and scope of cuts like "Wake Up" - featuring all 15 musicians singing in unison - and the mesmerizing, early-Roxy Music pulse of "Rebellion (Lies)" that make Funeral the remarkable achievement that it is. These are songs that pump blood back into the heart as fast and furiously as it's draining from the sleeve on which it beats, and by the time Chassagne dissects her love of riding "In the Backseat" with the radio on, despite her desperate fear of driving, Funeral's singular thread is finally revealed; love does conquer all, especially love for the cathartic power of music.
Top Customer Reviews
I was a bit skeptical when buying this because I had only heard 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' and even though I thought it was fantastic, I was wondering if the rest of the tracks could hold the consistency that 'Power Out' did. Luckily, they did.
Opening up with 'Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)', which is a rather melodic song with a somewhat rocky edge to it. A great opener to a great album.
Track two, 'Neighbourhod #2 (Laika)' begins with drums and accordion before exploding into a musical jigsaw where everything fits together perfectly. Great music, and sounds very pleasing to the ears. Great stuff.
Track three, 'Une Annee Sans Lumiere' (A Year Without Light)- (if my dodgy French tells me correctly) begins really softly and has a quite peaceful ambience to it. The mood doesn't change until the very end and only for a while the tempo speeds up. A great track.
Track four, 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' is somewhat heavier, mixing drums, violins, guitars, bass and glockenspiels to make a wonderful sound. An up-tempo track that is absolutely brilliant.
Track five, 'Neighbourhood #4 (Kettles)' is a down-tempo song and a nice one at that. The violins take over with the guitars to create a lovely, drift-away type of song. A very nice, warm ballad.
Track six, 'Crown Of Love' is one of my favourites, and even though the beginning isn't fantastic, it picks up as it goes along, and the bit where the song speeds up in tempo is brilliant. The violins add a brilliant touch to the song. Fantastic. Musical brilliance.Read more ›
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".Read more ›
It's as delicate as it is honest. The neat blend of instruments from guitars to organs and strings give each song it's own identity. There's a slow, but steady beat to the album with sudden thrusts of energy and then back down. Teasing the listener.
Forget people comparing The Arcade Fire to other artists, because it doesn't mean anything. All you need to know is that it's a great album. It flows quite beautifully, taking you on a childhood journey of someone else's memories. Comparing the record to how they sound live you can see just how much of a unique and carefully produced piece of work it really is.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Imaginative. Intriguing. Interesting. They can play very quiet or they can play very loud. Surely not meant to be taken too seriously. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ricky
I discovered Arcade Fire quite late and bought all their back catalogue. So far, this is my favorite. The sound changed quite a bit on subsequent albums. Read morePublished 3 months ago by kA
Original. Magical. Superb. I haven't been as excited about a band since I first heard Roxy Music.Published 5 months ago by the viking