Flashback: Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)


Let’s get something out in the open from the get go: the Grammys are not an indicator of musical talent. As most should have discovered by now, most awards ceremonies are dictated by a ferocious combination  of bureaucracy and corruption, and there’s little to be gained in winning, losing or being nominated anymore.

That’s not to suggest that the uproar triggered by Arcade Fire’s win for 2010’s The Suburbs didn’t tickle me pink. There’s nothing like getting middle America angry. Especially when the majority think the band in question is called The Suburbs.

But for all the chest-beating indie kids might have been doing post-win, completely aware of the hypocrisy of showing pride in a win from a stale, anachronistic establishment such as the Grammys, there’s something people still seem unwilling to admit. The Suburbs wasn’t all that great. What was, and remains seven years on, is their debut record Funeral.

I’m not going to go on a rant about bands leaving their roots, falling to the mainstream or any of that, at the end of it all the two albums seem to come from two different bands. And I happen to prefer the Arcade Fire of old; on Funeral they’re like the underage kid at gigs who thinks its cooler to earnestly shout and thrust himself into the crowd than to stand at the back, arms crossed at the chest, nodding head silently.

From the simmering keys that greet the ears on Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) through to the sonic outburst that is Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out), there’s so much sheer exuberance in every note. The first time I heard this record, my heart began racing and I felt the surging energy that seems to reside in the very DNA of Arcade Fire.

Of course, one cannot ignore that there are no fewer than ten instrumentalists involved, most multi-talented. Husband-wife pair Win Butler and Regine Chassagne are perfectly suited to one another musically, there’s no fight for the spotlight, but complete unity.

Every song on Funeral has a place. Maybe you don’t originally see the value, but come back to the record a year later, a year after that, and you move between songs. I had never paid attention to Crown Of Love, but recently it’s become my new favourite. Whereas the melodic force of Wake Up remains the anthem for us disenchanted indie kids, and with it Arcade Fire nominated themselves as our leaders.

I saw Arcade Fire live on their inaugural Australian visit in 2008. And I still find it to have been one of the most hair-raising, spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing show I’ve ever attended. Every cliché in the book can’t explain the magnificence of these performers and their songs. Just buy it, listen to it, love it, then see it live.

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