Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Arcade Fire - Sprawl II

This month the Grammys happened. While all the fake musicians patted themselves on the back for doing a terrible job, doing their best to convince themselves that they were more than just corporate prostitutes, something interesting happened, “The Suburbs,” won the album of the year.

Because of this development I gave a closer look. After looking over all the nominees for this year’s “best album,” all I can think is now could anything but “The Suburbs,” win? It was the only remotely good album nominated. All insults towards popular culture aside, I’m just happy someone artistic, creative, and good is beating the odds and getting the recognition they deserve, way to go Arcade Fire, you’re so damned awesome that even the brainwashed can’t ignore how great you are, and for that I applaud you.

“The Suburbs,” is fantastic, and worthy of album of the year, I mean no one is going to nominate “The Wicked Symphony,” so I’ll never be completely satisfied, but I’ll take what I can get, and if I had to pick a close second it would have been “The Suburbs.”

“The Suburbs” flows like “Funeral,” something that was lost somewhat in “Neon Bible,” so this again makes picking out an individual song difficult, but that’s not the only thing it has in common with “Funeral,” the narrative content is very similar in many ways. Remove the fantastic element of the frozen post apocalyptic world, and you have “The Suburbs.” A much more realistic story emerges, with the element of children growing up and feeling alone a returning theme. One critic stated that Win Butler’s musings on the topic of growing up in “The Suburbs,” doesn’t yield enough content to fill a sixteen track concept album, and all I have to say to that critic is, listen to the album, clearly no problem. If something more is being said in the narrative then just Win’s reflection of his youth it eludes me, this seems an album of self reflection on one’s own childhood and nothing more. Growing up is something we all do, so unsurprisingly, there is plenty content within the album we can all relate too.

I was very impressed with Regina Chassagne on this album. The wife of Win Butler and backup singer for the group, (I’m pretty sure she plays piano on some songs as well), she really steps up in my opinion. On “Funeral,” she was very much a backup singer, but her involvement has been growing, and I thought it was something to note on “The Suburbs” that two of my favourite songs on the album had her taking the lead vocals.

I really like the beat and feel of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” a really good song about not fitting in, and an interesting celebration therein. So that is my song to represent “The Suburbs,” it was a hard choice, but I really like this song, especially the childlike view of the city and the people in it, it is one of the things Arcade Fire does best, remembering the awe and wonder we felt when we were young.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)

I should have started the double feature a long time ago, because now I kind of feel like I’m stating the obvious, The Arcade Fire – “Funeral,” is a really good album. In January 2008 I reviewed Arcade Fire – “No Cars Go,” I wanted to talk about “Funeral” but “Neon Bible” had just come out and it felt more relevant to talk about that album. Now I know I should have done both, because that’s what I’m doing now.

For those of you who live under a rock “Funeral” is one of the best albums to come out in the last twenty years. In a rare moment of human intelligence it is actually agreed upon by many that The Arcade Fire is an amazing musical group, critics love them, they have a very strong fan base, and they are winning awards all the time. Rarely both the critics and the popular consensus get it right, but they seem to have pulled through this one time.

So what is there for me to say really, Arcade Fire are awesome? You should already know that.

Arcade Fire’s first album “Funeral” was a true masterpiece, their best album to date in my opinion. Rich with fantastic musical content, but also tell something of a narrative from song to song. There is something beautiful about the childlike imagination that goes into albums like “Funeral” that I truly adore. What if a snowstorm caused the end of the world, killing off all the parents, leaving only the children to rebuild? They would delight in the freedom and winter fun at first, and slowly realize the gravity of the situation. It’s a lot of heavy ideas especially when considered from the point of view of children, would they really appreciate what had happened, and when things got ugly in the post-apocalyptic society how would they cope? Well listen to the album and find out. You can appreciate the inspiration for the album from lead man Edwin (Win) Butler, being from Texas, where I’m sure he never fit in, moving to Montreal, and seeing snow for the first time, he may have thought, “Holy crap this could destroy civilization!”

It’s hard to pick a favourite song from the album since, they are all so good, and also, the songs flowing from one another creates a connection between songs making them harder to disassociate. Like any great story you need an intriguing beginning, “Neighbourhood #1,” and climatic middle, “Rebellion (Lies),” and a gripping end, “The Backseat.” I could just as easily do three music in reviews dissecting each song, but for the sake of your reading convenience I’ll pick just one. While I have always believed in breaking traditional story telling habits and feel a strong end is the most important part of your story (leave them wanting more right?) it is much easier to pick the middle in this example, the classic climax of any story, and also there is less back story to absorb.

“Rebellion (Lies)” stands alone fairly well, as it is a song that is about death and loss in general, rather than any particular specific death or loss. Opening lyrics “Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is. Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids.” I challenge you to find a more poetic way to say “don’t die.” Of course the song takes on a whole new level of significance once you remember the setting, children coming to terms with death. Another lyric I particular like is the chorus “Every time you close your eyes (lies lies)” there could be something being said about objective reality there, I have felt for a very long time children (and idiots) struggle to differentiate dreams from reality, the appeal to believe our dreams are more than just images in our heads but really real exists, but it takes some measure of maturity to accept waking life as rigid reality.

“Funeral” is a great album we are all richer for it.

Until tomorrow, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly