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Artist: The Arcade Fire
Label: Merge
length: 10 tracks/ 48:00

Disparate musical pieces that clamor and vie for your attention, melodies that build sweetly than come crashing down into randomized and discordant noises, Win butler’s reverberating voice spouting spoken-screamed-spoken lines with his wife’s feminine-soft voice singing in the background. Funeral sounds like a complete mess on the first listen.  It’s intriguing enough to keep you coming back though, and given time, Funeral reveals itself as a wonderfully full and alive work.  

To express the feelings this record evokes in me, perhaps a comparison to a different medium of art might work best- children’s novels.  Not just any kind of children’s novels, mind you, but the ones that you enjoyed long ago when you were a kid, and yet even today, after you’ve long grown up, you still find depth and joy in.  The Chronicles of NarniaThe Neverending Story.  Those kinds of works.  Intelligent writing that, instead of looking down on children, lifts them up (and those at other stages of life) with themes and stories that are pure and sincere, that reveal how virtuous mankind can be--not by pretending that evil and darkness does not exist, but by showing how mankind can overcome them.  

This is how The Arcade Fire’s songs come across, as pieces of music that are honest in their melancholy yet also uplifting in their conclusions and contemplation.  The raggedy swag and overall messiness of the sounds in this record, combined with the youthful and starry-eyed lyrics and energy gives Funeral, despite its title, an uplifting feel and a depth to its themes that are neither overly ambiguous or shallowly apparent.  

Funeral isn’t particularly ground-breaking in its style.  It’s indie-rock, and that’s about it. But originality isn’t everything, the great song writing throughout is what makes Funeral’s songs so commendable.  String arrangements swoop about, guitars crunch their way at the bottom, bits of piano and accordion fill in the holes, and good melodies hold it all together- a veritable Raggedy Ann of sound.   

“Cause nothin’s hid, from us kids!  You ain’t foolin’ nobody with the lights out!  And the power’s out in the hearts of man, take it from your heart put it in your hand…” sings Win in “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”.  It’s a general theme of Funeral--a call to stop hiding from the truth, to light your candle in darkness and to hold it up for the world to see.  Is Funeral a spiritual record?  Possibly, but we never can tell from what belief or religion the band is directly coming from or is influenced by.  The only outright religious lyric is in the above-mentioned song--on a basic glance, it might sound vulgar to some.  On a deeper look, it could be something else, a possible reference to an old children’s song-- “this little light of mine, I’m gunna let it shine….”

It should be obvious by now--I love this record.  It manages to be so many different things at once--melancholy, uplifting, messy, youthful, dramatic, fun, full of depth.  I can see some listeners being perhaps turned off by a couple tracks that might be too teary-eyed, and the production and overall messy sound is a little hard to grasp on the first listen.  This isn’t a “listen and enjoy once, then toss it” record; quite the opposite.  Give it time, and I think most will be as blown away as I eventually was.

Jonathan Avants 5/18/06



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