Arcade Fire – Funeral
Starting off by playing small shows supporting their self-titled EP, the release of Arcade Fire’s full-length debut Funeral brought the Montreal-based band a stratospheric amount of praise. Not only did they become favorites of critics and fans but they became lauded by such musical heavyweights as U2, David Bowie, David Byrne, and Damon Albarn. It’s not hard to see why, either. Funeral is sweeping and dramatic, dedicated to the band’s family members who had died during the recording and release of the album. As a result, the record deals with mortality, love, and loss and does it through grandiose music that takes as many cues from Talking Heads and Pixies as it does Neutral Milk Hotel and Bowie himself.
But all the unrestrained emotion–Win Butler’s primal singing and shouting, the string-laden loveliness, the transcendent choral harmonies–would be aimless and ineffective if it weren’t for the songs themselves. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” sets the tale of lovers in a post-apocalyptic tundra to an ever-building crescendo; the propulsive post-punk of “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” is a fiery indictment of the human condition. Meanwhile, “Wake Up” is a rousing anthem that features over a dozen musicians singing in unison. Yet, Funeral also works in its smaller scale songs as well. Moments such as “Rebellion (Lies)”‘s call-and-response pulse and “In the Backseat”‘s orchestral climax give the album a much-needed balance.
It’s no surprise Funeral‘s immense acclaim and unfiltered emotion galvanized a new trend of similar, big-sounding indie bands in the second half of the 2000s, but they often missed the point. Arcade Fire’s bombast never sounds forced here. They never sound as if they are badgering emotion out of themselves or the listener because, in the end, the appeal of Funeral isn’t its drama but its humanity. Despite its theatrics, it simply sounds like what it is: a group of friends and family genuinely achieving catharsis through music.