red lights


Hope from the ashes

The Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire - Funeral
(Merge Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 1, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Can indie rock be grandiose, theatrical and majestic while still retaining a sense of cool? When it's bands like Neutral Milk Honey, The Decemberists and now The Arcade Fire it sure can. That's because these acts successfully incorporate Art back into underground rock without any pomp or pretensions.
The guiding influence behind Funeral, the debut album from the Montreal-based band The Arcade Fire, was due, in part, to the many personal losses surrounding bandmembers throughout the last year. Brothers Win (vocals, guitars and keyboards) and Will Butler (bass, percussion) lost their grandfather a little over a year ago. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Regine Chassagne's grandmother died last spring. And, more recently, multi-instrumentalist Richard Parry's Aunt Betsey passed away. So it was the loss of loved ones that would became the common emotional denominator for both the band and their first effort.
While the narrative of this conceptual album may have been influenced by the morose, the spirit that hovers above many these grand songs are instead uplifting, thought provoking and, quite often, even consoling. The opening track "Neighborhood # 1 (Tunnels)," unfolds with a haunting piano-line peering from behind Win's aching vocals, while the closing number "In the Backseat," which (with Regine's frail-turned-fanatical vocals and the maudlin strings and bittersweet melody) is eerily reminiscent to early Sugarcubes. And it's during these more reflective moments that we're reminded, only after it's gone, just how precious love and life is.
But more than a soliloquy of the deceased, the music that unfolds is more often uplifting, joyous and beating with life. Songs such as "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" with its celebratory accordion dancing around Win's nervous David Byrne-like vocal delivery, along with the proud majesty that parades through the hopeful number "Wake Up," showcase the theatrical power and presence of this engaging new act.
"My family tree is losing all its leaves," Regine cries at one point, but with such a strong sense of will and determination that this band exudes during trying times, their future efforts should certainly be enough to keep the Arcade Fire family name alive for quite some time.

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