08 November 2005

burning down the arcade

haiti : arcade fire
click on the image below to listen

Never has bilingualism in rock sounded so good. Before the last couple of days, I hadn't listened to Montréal's Arcade Fire long enough to strongly like a song from their album Funeral. What a shame that I'm writing this a year too late. The 2004 album is so confident that it's hard to imagine it as a debut record from an indie band that started performing together only just the year before. In 10 songs and 48 minutes, Arcade Fire set themselves apart from the sometimes-cocky emo and retro rockers that have been lucky enough to find a broader audience over the last couple of years. Perhaps until we hear their second studio album, expected next year, it's hard to say that there is a single sound that distinguishes the band. The first three minutes of Un Année Sans Lumiere, for example, could already have stood on its own as a richly melodic, jam-friendly acoustic number, and the frantic scratches of electric guitar in the final minute could have provided an angry hook for another song. But there they are together, giving an appropriate polarity to a song that, to me, deals with the thin line between accepting death and fighting it. It's quite different from the singular tone and theme of Haiti, which is a clear elegy to the war-ravaged country from where singer Régine Chassagne's parents originate. In fact, although she sings lead in only two songs in the album – Haiti and In The Back Seat – Chassagne's jazz-trained voice alone adds even more variety to Arcade Fire's material. Hearing her was, after all, the reason Win Butler, who would become her husband, decided to form the band. Funeral was made in a year when personal tragedies struck members of the band. That obviously gave the album its theme, and probably the complexity of its sound as well. Now that Arcade Fire have (presumably) gotten over it, I can't wait to hear how they will live up to their amazing debut.

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