Nearly Perfect Albums #20 – Funeral – Arcade Fire

The ironic thing about ‘Funeral’ is that for a record that is primarily about death, and coping with people dying (during the recording of this album, about twenty family members and friends of the band collectively died, hence the album title), it is an album that feels full of life.  It at times also seems extraordinarily happy and its full of big songs, songs that should have the words ‘STATEMENT’ branded onto its forehead and painted purple in case you missed it. 

It took Arcade Fire the opening four minutes of ‘Funeral’ to convince indie rock fans to that the future did not necessarily belong to the new rock revolution that the NME were talking about.  A future where bands like The Datsuns and Jet were considered ‘groundbreaking’.  Because those four minutes were breathtaking.

Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

It begins subtly enough with the gentle throb of an organ and a simple piano chord repeated that slowly builds into something epic.  Then Butler’s voice kicks in, all raw and emotive, musically it was a bit like Talking Heads, a bit like David Bowie in his pomp, a bit like nothing we had heard before.  But it was magical.

Pretty soon we got a song called ‘Power Out’ which sounded like New Order and Joy Division at the same bloody time.  It sparkles brilliantly, swelling into a huge anthem.  It’s a fist pumping, passionate, mesmerising beast of a record, and after a first listen you are thinking that this must be highpoint of this record, they can’t top that, right?

Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

And of course, you’d be wrong, there are two moments, greater than ‘Power Out’.  If you look back up at the top of this post I talk about ‘Funeral’ being full of big songs, songs that are statements and whilst ‘Power Out’ is definitely a big song, its positively tiny when you compare it firstly to ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ and scarily miniscule up against ‘Wake Up’

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

Wake Up – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records)

Of the big songs, ‘Wake Up’ is perhaps the biggest of all.  A thunderous lust for life all about seizing the day with a massive chorus and a soaring blast of energy that didn’t just grab indie rock by the shirt collars it slapped it about it the chops whilst roaring in its face to try harder.  It remains the best song the band have ever written.

‘Funeral’ made misery sound good, and it is a record that we now know that only Arcade Fire could have made.  Of all the records that I have shortlisted as being ‘nearly perfect’, it is this one (and perhaps a couple of others) that I struggled the most to justify not being in the ‘completely perfect’ pile

Randomly Shuffled Songs #4

My Body Is A Cage – Arcade Fire (2007, Merge Records, Taken from ‘Neon Bible’)

Intervention – Arcade Fire (2007, Merge Records, Taken from Neon Bible’)

Church organs are funny things. Sometimes when a band uses them on a track and they sound majestic and otherwordly and I am left thinking that there is not enough church organs in modern music.

Other times they sound bloody morbid and I am left thinking that they have absolutely no place in modern music. For the purposes of balance I have decided to post an example of both from the same record. That record is ‘Neon Bible’ and for those of you that are remotely interested in these things, it was the first album I ever loaded on my iPod Classic back in June 2010.

That same iPod Classic this morning gave me ‘My Body Is A Cage’ on the shuffle. Its an example of where the church organ sounds rubbish. It makes the song sound bleak and when after about 2 minutes the military sounding drums crash in over the top of it you hope that the organ will stop, but no its still there right until the end. It ruins the song.

Then on other hand you have ‘Intervention’ which is an example of a church organ sounding fantastic. Here the organ sounds upbeat, cheerful and even when Wim Butler sings about his family dying or something, the organ blares away like its Christmas or something. Its bloody brilliant.