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"Wake Up," a track from, Funeral, the debut full-length by Montreal's Arcade Fire, builds from a midtempo strum into a "You Can't Hurry Love" gallop, which singer Win Butler interrupts with a yell: "You better look out below!" Somehow, none of this hits the ear as over-emotional. Throughout Funeral, the band augments its five-piece line-up with string sections, weaving a near-cinematic, folk-influenced chamber pop that slots in somewhere between Belle and Sebastian's delicacy and the robust classicism of '80s New Zealand bands such as the Chills and the Verlaines. The album drips with enough romanticism to rival Jeff Buckley's Grace, from the dreamscape of "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" ("Meet me in the middle of the town... forget all we used to know") to the epic realism of "In the Backseat." One of the indie rock community's most beloved finds of 2004, Arcade Fire are poised to win over even more listeners. --Rickey Wright
Funeral is a brilliant album of beguiling contradictions. It's a wintry record with real warmth and a joyous, uplifting collection of songs made during bereavement. It is utterly accessible but still art-rock and skewed, typically Canadian charm led by a man from Texas.
Arcade Fire's Win Butler grew up in the lone star state but eventually gravitated to Montreal and it's his canine yelp that colours the band's debut as much as the deaths of band members' relatives, who are the subject of a dedication in the sleeve notes.
Win and his awkward but confident vocals are reminiscent of Talking Heads' main man David Byrne and like Byrne he drags some remarkable imagery into his bands songs. On ''7 Kettles'' he switched from cliché to oddity in a single line and the effect is oddly moving, 'They say a watched pot never boils/ you can't raise a baby on motor oil'. Or the haunting but jagged ''Laika'' he intones along with wife and bandmate Regine Chassagne, 'Our older brother/ bit by a vampire/ For a year we caught his tears in a cup/ And now we're gonna make him drink it'. You don't doubt them for a second.
Part of what causes Arcade Fire fans to so worship the thoughtful septet is the instrumentation. British bands who lazily rent an orchestra in the hope of chart success would do well do give Funeral a listen or 20. Every xylophone, violin and accordion adds to the heady brew. Instant catharsis, it ain't. Here, like on so many life-changing albums, the rewards come with each new listen.
In the years since Funeral, Arcade Fire made Neon Bible, an equally astounding album. But where Funeral was personal, !Bible is political. And where !Bible wears its influences on its sleeve from Echo And The Bunnymen to Bruce Springsteen, their first effort was the sound of a band discovering their own greatness. Only Arcade Fire can make misery sound so good and only Arcade Fire distil life into a sound that is at once busy and simple, textured and pure. There seems little doubt that Funeral will live on in listeners' hearts. --Lou Thomas
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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 2 months 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 6 months ago by the viking