Funeral 9 ( 2005 )
Neighbourhood 1 - Tunnels / Neighbourhood 2 - Laika / Une Annee Sans Lumiere / Neighbourhood 3 - Power Out / Neighbourhood 4 - 7 Kettles / Crown Of Love / Wake Up / Haiti / Rebellion / In The Backseat
Heartache into beauty as the band see three relatives die within the space of a month, as well as a marriage between the bands two principal members. Forward to September 2004 to give birth to a beautiful debut LP. Title it 'Funeral' for very apparent reasons, make sure the album contains instrumentation such as accordian, acoustic guitar, kettle whistles etc, as well as vocals of extreme yelped emotion. Indeed, as soon as the opener begins, you're thrown spectactularly into the world of The Arcade Fire. 'Tunnels' is one of the most evocative, stunning album openers of recent years. Infact, although I generally avoid quoting lyrics within reviews if I can help it, the opening section of 'Tunnels' deserves to be reprinted here.
And if the snow buries my, my neighboorhood.
And if my parents are crying Then i'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours,
Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney,
And meet me in the middle, the middle of the town. And since there's no one else around, We let our hair grow long, And forget all we used to know. Then our skin gets thicker from Living out in the snow.
The song begins with a faint electronic whine appearing in the background, a melody plucked out amid echo. Bass drum and vocals. Vocals sounding vaguely akin to what The Flaming Lips would if they'd suddenly attended three funerals and generally had all the ego knocked out of them. That's a strange description, I know, but then these are strange vocals. Quite distinctive and seemingly growing in strength, or at least attempting to, as the song progresses. Layers of instrumentation are added, sections arrive and go and it's quite some story we get to hear, quite an emotional, dreamy journey. In a word, it's fantastic.
As the cult around this strange group of dreamers from Montreal continues to grow, we have the first UK single, 'Power Out', released to preview the 2005 UK release of the album. Peaking at number 25, so a bona-fide hit song, although certainly not a pop song, 'Power Out' gains in power the more listens you give to it. Besides, out of any popular music currently selling in the modern singles market, 'Power Out' stands out a mile. The music contains buried orchestration added to give the song just that extra something. 'Une Annee Sans Lumiere' proves The Arcade Fire can do delicate beauty without the layers of carefully added instrumentation just as well as the likes of 'Power Out' and 'Tunnels'. That's important. The head-bobbing medium tempo beauty that is 'Crown Of Love' could make a good single in another world. The song with the unenviable task of following up 'Tunnels' on the album proves, fortunately, to be just as strangely spooky, and genuinely spine-tingling in the level of excitement it provides as 'Tunnels'. 'Laika' is another song with a set of lyrics that makes you go into places and situations in your mind. Listening to the song is akin to having a wonderful dream with just the right amount of tension added to provide contrast and the impending possibility of fear and disaster. Ah, 'Rebellion' is fantastic and i'm going to have to end the review now, just so I can listen again to this wonderful record. It reminds me a little of 'Deserter Songs' by Mercury Rev, just a little. That's the nearest comparison I can make, at least. It has that same sense of being whole, that same sense of being some kind of magical thing.
Bill Oberg firstname.lastname@example.org Couldn't agree more with you on Arcade Fire. Except to give it a ten.
Or at least a 9.5. Sure it's a debut album, but holy jesus man! It
doesn't get much better, debut or not, no matter if it's music we're
talking about or just art in general. I seem to have discovered this
band at exactly the same time as you so we'll see how it ages. But my
guess is pretty damn good.
Jeff email@example.com First off I'm glad that you heard this album. I'm from Canada and there are many great acts here that people in the UK or US don't get a chance to listen to. I've read a great many of your reviews but this is the first one were I have felt the need to post a comment. Why was this not a 10? All the songs have the same underlying theme of the neighbourhood,family. This wasn't just a collection of songs. There wasn't a song that was out of place. Tunnels is a great intro song and in the back seat is a great end to a fantastic album. I think it should have been a 10. by the way have you ever listened to a band called Ween?
Ric Nightingale firstname.lastname@example.org This is one of the finest albums I have ever heard.I'm seriously impressed with the brilliant lyrics and fantastic song arrangements.Not a single weak track on this album.Album of the year? Album of the decade more like. I'd give this 10 out of 10. Perfect!!
Ellis email@example.com Without doubt, the best album of the year so far ('Open Season' being the only contender in my book). The Neighbourhood suite makes for an incredible first half....and those vocals!!!
Jimbo James.Crouchman@PremierFoods.co.uk 'Rebellion' is the tune God whsitles when he's watching the sun rise over a shuttle launch in Florida. I have never listened to a record before and felt so emotionally drained afterwards. Unbelievable.
Nick firstname.lastname@example.org This album had a profound effect on me from the first time I listened to it. If you like this style you HAVE to listen to Broken Social Scene. They're a little more frenetic than Arcade Fire and have an absolutely amazing sound on their cd and live. The Canadian indie scene is booming.
gazza email@example.com The way this flows is just wondrous , theres an intensity and fragility here thats rare in modern bands apart from say sigur ros .
A very strong debut album (shades of talking heads in places?) Lets hope this is just the start.
edd firstname.lastname@example.org You can tell when songs have real emotion and these certainly do. That combined with great songwriting and great musicianship makes for a great album. Good review and i agree that at times it resembles what a somber Flaming Lips might sound like. Neighbourhood 3, Wake Up and Rebellion (Lies) are my favourites here.
Joe To anyone reading, you HAVE to see this band live whilst they're still playing smaller, soul-included venues. I've seen every band from R.E.M. to U2 to Queen live, and nothing came CLOSE to the pure, spell binding magic created by this lot. F*ck Coldplay, f*ck the La-ripoff Libertines and a big shiny midle finger to wankrockers Muse, this is THE band of the noughties.
Brandon Toronto I just want to point out that Arcade Fire is from Montreal like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are from Berlin. A few token members are natves and that's the city they choose to work out of, but the central individual, Butler, is from Heartland, USA. I mention this because I think American Liberalism is part and parcel of the band's identity.
Neon Bible 8½ ( 2007 )
Black Mirror / Keep the Car Running / Neon Bible / Intervention / Black Wave - Bad Vibrations / Ocean of Noise / The Well and the Lighthouse / (Antichrist Television Blues) / Windowsill / No Cars Go / My Body Is a Cage
The magical, child-like view portrayed by Arcade Fire of family death and childhood passing will never be recaptured. This time around they have bigger things on their mind such as floods, war, television and religion. Musically, not a lot has changed. 'Neon Bible' retains that sense of 'wobbliness' that so enriched tunes such as the amazing 'Tunnels'. That takes me to another point, 'Tunnels' is a song likely to reside in my favourite ever songs list. It's allure was going to be impossible to repeat and so it proves to be. 'Neon Bible' has to overcome the fact we know what we're looking for from Arcade Fire now. Whatever they throw up has a measure to be, well, measured against for want to a better expression. Differences then? Well, one song sounds like Bruce Springsteen. One song sounds like Echo And The Bunnymen and another like a cross between The Beatles, ELO and outer-space. That sense of wonderful 'wobbliness' I mentioned? 'Tunnels' had it and so does 'Black Mirror'. As if the band aren't really here at all and the music is merely being beamed in from higher spiritual beings. The mix on a song such as 'Black Mirror' is intriguing. I'm a guy that equally likes a wall of sound to being able to clearly pick out each and every instrument. 'Black Mirror' isn't so much a wall of sound as a shifting mirage of sand appearing in the middle of an ocean. It's difficult to know what to make of it all. It's no 'Neighbourhood' then no, but it's still an impressive introduction. Equally at the other end, 'My Body Is A Cage' impresses, although for different reasons. It's something new for the band. A real church organ combines with a marching band and twisted loathing to produce a markedly darker moment than appeared on 'Funeral'.
The speedy driving song (?) 'Keep The Car Running' is the one that sounds like 1981 Echo And The Bunnymen have been transported twenty five years into the future and drawn with crayons. The title track is three minutes of filler and we didn't get that with 'Funeral'. 'Black Wave-Bad Vibrations' is only half a good song, the first half suffering from weak female lead vocals. Everything else here is worthy though. 'Windowsill' and 'No Cars Go' both sound suitably epic and impressive and the mighty church organ magnificent introducing 'Intervention'. My favourite song here? The quiet 'Ocean Of Noise' creates a wonderful, ghostly and haunting atmosphere that's also quite lovely. It places a listener in a dreamscape and quite apart from the songs own title, is a soothing lovely lullaby with stunning subtle melodies that win me over. So, excellent album number two? Well, yes. Arcade Fire have a way with putting together sounds? Certainly, yes. Brian Eno to produce album number three? It'd be nice, don't you think?
edd email@example.com I'm still undecided about whether this is better than Funeral or not. It works as a concept album better and the songs are more varied in style but there are a couple of weaker songs which Funeral doesn't have IMO. Intervention, No Cars Go and My Body Is A Cade are all incredible songs.
Jayson firstname.lastname@example.org Hmm tough one this? It was always going to be difficult for The Arcade Fire to come close to emulating the response that they evoked when you listened to Funeral. The subject matter and the way they dealt with it through Win's emotionally charged lyrics and the bands solid musical backdrops made it a hard task to follow. I think that they did quite well considering. Compared to Funeral which basically had carefully layered tracks that burst into life and sparse, atmospheric songs like Haiti that were carried along with the beautiful simplicity of the musical talent of the band, on Neon Bible we have a more eclectic range of songs from Black Mirror: Dark, reserved then suddenly bursts into life, very much like early Floyd. Intervension: Fantastic pace and structure, great song. Ocean of Noise: The most believable lyrics and performance on the album " Now who here among us still believes in choice, not I". Perfect. Then you have No Cars Go: Comparisons to Del Amitri spring to ! mind, similar to Wake Up only in the sense that the more you hear it the more it grows on you. Now for the not so good. (Antichrist Television Blues) seems forced both musically and lyrically. It is also far too long. On it's own it's a pretty decent attempt at a rock and roll/blues song but it comes across as emotionally vapid. Also Black Wave/Bad Vibrations could have been absolutely fantastic if it had simply been Bad Vibrations. 8 and a half.
Ben Leach Kingoftheeyesores@yahoo.com Oh my my. Why is the Arcade Fire so good? I want to leave town and join this band of gypsys. I have to say i feel that this album is moref an album than Funerals, but picking between the twon would be like picking your favorite child. I think Bible edges out Funerals just for the sheer lack of any bad tracks. OOOO it soosooso good
Aaron email@example.com Wow..I would really hate to engage in NME hyperbole, but I think Neon Bible is truly a classic..and yes probably a candidate for one of the best albums of the decade. It's been a while I've heard an album that has moved me this much and inspired such intense emotion. Truly a beautiful, scary, and truly epic work of art. And I even recognize that it has flaws..but the emotional rush of the actual music, and how it makes me feel..make me totally unable to really care. And I think that's a good sign if anything...
GAZZA firstname.lastname@example.org I give up . its brilliant , possibly the best american album since Yankee hotel foxtrot or deserters songs . It rails against the far right in america , against organised religion and meaningless war with an almost evangelical verve . Musically it flows as powerfully as "funeral" and the influences become a little clearer - springsteen,the bunnymen,the dynamics of the pixies , david byrne vocally and lyrically .
There isnt a particularly happy worldview here , they seem to think were all doomed but theyre going down raging with this powerful cinematic music that still manages to be uplifting .
It sounds great in the car too , this ones for keeps guys . Arcade fire are on the verge of becoming a very important band indeed .
NR Another great album, although the first reached me on a more intimate level. Great stuff. And as for the one who posted in front of me, the Arcade Fire are Canadian, not American. Many Canadians take great offense to being grouped with Americans.
Nils email@example.com Both albums are incredible. Canada is truly progressing; or more likely, getting discovered. From what I've gathered, at least the Toronto scene has been flourishing for several years. Take note of violinist Owen Pallett. He has released two absolutely brilliant solo albums under the moniker Final Fantasy. Hopefully, he'll keep up the good work.
Stephen Having heard endless glowing reviews of this album, I was really disappointed to discover that it is merely an OK (and sometimes rather dull) rock record. At its best it sounds like a fairly good Echo & The Bunnymen album, but with fewer memorable songs. Elsewhere it seems to be too 'epic by numbers' to really engage (I'm sure they are sincere, but then so are U2). Why all the hype? It's not awful by any means, but, 20 years after Ocean Rain, there's certainly no new ground broken here. Production-wise, the sound just isn't interesting enough, and musically, a few more rough edges and a little more variety would have been welcome.
andrew.koole firstname.lastname@example.org Arcade made some money between creating this and Funeral, and you can tell, but not in a bad way. this album is crisper and more mature, i think. I totally disagree that the title track is filler. It's actually one of my favorites off the album because it brings the idea of the album together unlike most of the other tracks (except for maybe 'no cars go'). all in all though, i agree. it's hard to compare it to the greatness that was funeral. I'll let it stand on its own for now as beautiful.oh yeah, and it's good to finallly see a Canadian band get some cred. i guess i get to hear more of it since i live here, but man, we are kicking out some wicked tunes lately. (well, actually, we've been doing it forever). It's more the Montreal scene than the Toronto scene though. if you're looking for some more (who isn't?) check out Broken Social Scene, Sam Roberts, Stars, or this new one that ain't bad i just saw the other day, Miracle Fortress. love the site.
joe Completely agree with the other Joe. AF at Lowlands '07 was possibly the most electrifiying show I've seen and, coincidentally, I've also been to R.E.M. (Great, cold & soulless venue) and U2 (Simply Terrible. Hate them so much now.) As good as they are, this is not a 10. 'Black Waves' and 'Windowsill' are middling at best, and the title track even dips far below average. With a little more effort, this could have been one of the best albums ever, but as it is it's deeply flawed.
The Suburbs 8 ( 2010 )
The Suburbs / Ready To Start / Modern Man / Rococo / Empty Room / City With No Children / Half Light I / Half Light II (No Celebration) / Suburban War / Month Of May / Wasted Hours / Deep Blue / We Used To Wait / Sprawl I (Flatland) / Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) / The Suburbs (Continued)
Arcade Fire's journey away from the critically acclaimed 'Funeral' has led them through the more straightforward 'Neon Bible' to arrive at the less straightforward yet ultimately confusing 'The Suburbs'.
Naturally when an album is only a few weeks old in our minds it's difficult to ascertain whether we'll still be loving it in twelve months time. When Radiohead released 'OK Computer' it was almost impossible to ignore the fact that record clearly had something but also that it had obvious depth both musically and lyrically. The quality of the playing could be enjoyed seperate from the melodies or arrangements or lyrics. Each aspect seemed to go together perfectly yet you could also focus on one aspect or another. To my mind that inspires long-term listening, picking up various different facets of an album over time.
'The Suburbs' is clearly an important work from one of the most important bands we have around today. Yet for all the beauty demonstrated by 'Suburban War' most notably and the powerful likes of 'Ready To Start' or 'Modern Man' i'm sensing a lack of 'something'. It's not lyrical, the lyrics are often superb. Musically the playing is competent enough but you wouldn't really call it impressive. The production work in the studio compensates and the clever simplicity of many of the melodies doesn't really require virtousity from the musicians. So what's wrong? I think at the end of the day the album just isn't much fun. Oh, you could say the same about many albums and artists. Were Joy Division 'fun'? Well, perhaps not always, but next to the sadness you had romance, you had paintings in black and white, you had artistry and you also had jerky fun with the likes of 'Transmission' or 'She's Lost Control'. Well, Arcade Fire give us 'Month Of May' as a speedy, jerky distraction. All breathless vocals and simple drum patterns, it's pretty fun all told. Also 'fun' is the Blondie styled 'Spral II' - true, the lyrics aren't exactly abouts hearts of glass but this mid-tempo electro number gives the album welcome textures.
Melodies, then. Well, 'The Suburbs' lacks in certain extents in this particular respect. There's seems plenty of ambition lyrically and arrangement wise yet melodically the simplicity grates when it's track after track after track. At least the title track has a good bass line. Why is it bands forget about writing melodic bass lines these days? 'Ready To Start' and 'Modern Man' both continue this strong start, 'Modern Man' a potential single to my ears. Why's that? Well, the lyrics say something accessible and once more, Arcade Fire remember to include a decent bass melody which adds that needed extra dimension to a song. 'Empty Room' has a certain drive and then once we reach 'Suburban War' almost all is forgiven. This has that difficult to define romance, said same romance that made 'Funeral' so alluring. It's touching and evokes black and white silent movies bursting into colour. Excellent stuff all in all that proves Arcade Fire haven't really lost anything, apart from perhaps a little focus. Lyrically 'The Suburbs' ties together but at sixty-four minutes could have perhaps been trimmed by a song or two - the quality across the albums sixteen tracks isn't really as consistent as we could have reasonably hoped.
Dan London I think your review is correct in many ways, but I think the fact you have given it an 8 suggests that you realise this is a very good/great album. The hard thing to accept is that this is so different to their first two albums, which were bursting with huge anthems. I always admire it when a band produces something different. It shows musical versitility and depth. This is a grower, it commands hours of listening. It is subtle and beautiful. I feel like sticking on my ipod and lying on the pavement to listen to it, bringing back those days as a kid. For me the most important band around.
USA My main complaint with the album is that it is just a bit too long. The better songs get lost in the medium tempo nubers one after another.I think the girl singer comes into her own a bit more on this album. I get the sense that W. Butler is going through the struggle he, as an artists of value, needs to be going through at this time: each new album should be a challenge, a development; and this can mean an occasional stumble.Still - it's all relative. Arcade Fire have shown a lot; so they have set the bar high for themselves.Like Dan says "a grower". So far I dig the fast songs. Don't understand why they chose to premier the cuts they did on SNL.