Win Butler - Guitar/Lead Vocals/Bass/Guitar/Keyboards/Harmonica.
Régine Chassagne - Keyboards/Lead & Backing Vocals /Accordion/Xylophone/Drums.
Richard Parry - Guitar/Percussion/Helmet/Backing Vocals/Upright Bass/Keyboards/General Mayhem.
Tim Kingsbury - Bass/Backing Vocals/Guitar.
Will Butler - Percussion/Helmet/Guitar/Bass Guitar /Backing Vocals/General Mayhem.
Sarah Neufeld - Violin/Backing Vocals.
Jeremy Gara - Drums/Guitar/Backing Vocals.
The Arcade Fire – “Funeral” (Rough Trade)
Reviewed from a grown-up child’s perspective -
by Ben Browton and Sunflower - in August:
And so it was that one day the ‘very original’ intellectual cousins of the Pixies via Uncle Ian Curtis in disguise decided to go Talking Heads in the graveyard with echoes of Sparks thrown in for good measure, performing all of their eccentricities, improvising Wedding Presents, from time to time indulging in a Waltz in Black D’Amelie with accordion (but no added sugar), telling each other a story of self-adventure, zombies, vampires and faceless neighbours dancing in the police disco lights. An aural equivalent of Eugenides masterful “Virgin Suicides”.
An immense achievement with no frills or whingeing, Funeral is an album where each song represents a sensational story with a specific ghost as a protagonist and a reflection of the bands’ kaleidoscopic universe. And always, always it is the soaring, tugging and plangent voice of Win Butler that drives along this pain and passion, pouring his soul out over the driving riffing and biffing of the orchestration.
That first guitar figure/intro on “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” sounds like a strange beast stirring from a long hibernation, before a maelstrom of angst is thereby unleashed on the listener. Part music-hall, part Donnie Darko’s madness, all set in the claustrophobic world of the teenager, emerging from bedrooms where dark secrets and fears are kept away from the adults…
“Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, while in motion, under the spell of the finest violins hired secretly by the same Arcade under the most peculiar and non-negotiable condition of hiding behind the graves to underline the desperately vigorous cry of the grown-up child/singers.
And do they mean Laika, the Russian dog that died in space?
The instruments make a feature of themselves by wrapping the deepest sorrow and infinite sense of emptiness in a pleasantly tragicomic lullaby “Une année sans lumière..” sometimes featuring the French language (as you would in Canada); posing riddles such as “Ne dis pas à ton père qu’il porte des oeillières” – “Don’t talk to your father who wears blinkers” and thus more references to eyes and light.
The song tastes of death, yes, but also energy, and fresh joi de vivre, yes, loads of it… in a hymn to enhanced life.
When the percussionists strike harder on their drums, the talking heads give way to a party, and then the collective effort reveals all its facets as in “Neighbourhood #3 (Power out)”.
Funeral is like the Phoenix re-born from the ashes of some beloved friends or relatives that died not so long ago. “Destruction is creation” indeed, as Donnie Darko says to his teacher regarding the ending of Graham Greene’s book ‘The Destructors’. Purify the colours and everything looks brighter!
This album is a procession of dark fairy tales, however not with fairies but ghosts, ghosts of people and situations now physically gone or never even born “Neighbourhood #4 (Kettle)”, but very much alive in the memory of the Arcade Fire, so much so that they decided to call it Funeral to commemorate them. Paradoxically a morbid title for a cynically non-morbid and darkly humorous album
All together the ten songs on Funeral form a personal universe that speak of love, grief, memories and pure feelings, micro-stories made of latent childlike impressions and untold teenage fantasies as in “Crown of Love”. All these memories are not left behind. They are truly unforgotten, equally vibrant and poignant when told by the same grown-up children as in “Wake Up”.
“Haiti”, sung by Queen Regine, brings to mind the anguish depicted in Picasso’s “Guernica”, but here instead is the brutal shadow of “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the Tonton Macoutes, and the power of voodoo “Tous les morts-nés forment une armée” – an army of zombies will reclaim the earth!
“Rebellion (Lies)”, is more assertive focussing on the world of adults telling lies to their children and pretending that everything is all right, when those grown-up children do actually know that everything is absolutely not right!
“In the Backseat...” (again sung by Queen Regine) features someone lost in an intimate contemplation of the countryside from a rear of the car perspective, revealing or gradually uncovering what comes once again as the suggestion of a close and painful loss…
A juicy and genuinely honest debut; so fragile and yet so strong; we are afraid that they will never do this again.
A wake up call indeed!
Ben Browton/Sunflower (Collaboration 1) – tMx 21 – 09/05