Just over a decade ago, a beautiful thing was created. A quiet, but driving piano riff quietly fades in over the sound of a violin being gently tickled. As you listen ever closely, you hear a guitar match the piano’s melody. Before you realize it, a still, small voice appears through the mellow melody. In a hushed, almost whispered tone, it paints a picture as beautiful as the words it sings. “And if the snow buries my… my neighborhood… and if my parents are crying, then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours.” As the kick drum thumps and the crash cymbal announces the entrance of the drums, the song begins to gain momentum. Win Butler’s unique voice begins to increase in both volume and intensity, and just like that, this classic album is off to a fantastic start.
Funeral is a unique album from the first piano chord in the opener, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” to the last pluck of the violin strings in the final song’ “In the Backseat.” The album has a wonderful mix of driving, up-beat songs (such as “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”) and slower, quieter songs (like “Une Anee Sans Lumiere”). But no matter what the song, Arcade Fire promises to keep it interesting. With the band’s Montreal roots and Canadian heritage, naturally, there are a lot of French lyrics throughout the album, mostly thanks to Régine Chassagne, Win Butler’s lovely wife who shares vocal duties in the band with him. The aforementioned “Une Anee Sans Lumiere” and the unique “Haiti” make heavy use of the French language.
It is on “Haiti” that Régine really shines, as she takes the reigns as lead vocalist for this subdued, yet powerful masterpiece. It is in songs like “Haiti” that demonstrate Arcade Fire’s ability to create a piece that has just as much finesse as it does impact. But on the other end of things, the band truly excels at creating fast, driving, almost frantic indie rock. Songs such as “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Rebellion (Lies)” showcase heavy dance drum beats and booming, bass driven melody laced with beautiful violin accents. It is on these tracks that Arcade Fire show off their true talent as a band. However, even ten years later, the band’s most popular and arguably best song remains “Wake Up.” This down-tempo anthem boasts power from the very start. The electric guitar opening is soon joined by a harp and the overpowering, but not overdone drums.
However, when the entire band comes in with what is possibly one of the most well know group vocals in recent years, the listener slips into a state of sonic ecstasy. This overwhelming, atmospheric rock song makes it easy to see why this small indie rock outfit from Montreal now travels the world selling out stadium tours. And if this wasn’t enough already, toward the end of the song, Arcade Fire employ a key and tempo change. The song, now upbeat and explosive, is finished off by Win’s reckless scream: “You better look out below!” and the violin drives it
One of Funeral’s most interesting qualities, aside from its musicianship, is the themes it ties together. The title of this record comes from the fact that almost every band member had a loved one die while the album was being recorded. On “In the Backseat,” Régine sings, “Alice died in the night,” concerning the passing of her loved one. It is interesting, however, that the band focuses so much on themes of growing up in the Neighborhood tracks. Win sings about young love in a small town on the album’s opener, and by the end of the record, is singing about
lies and death. Perhaps this is the band’s bleak perception of what it is like to grow up. Life shifts from young, careless, and free to cold, dark, and shocking. However, these themes are not reflected in the music, which always has a sense of happiness. I do not want to give the illusion that Arcade Fire makes depressing music for happy people. Perhaps, if I had to peg this album with a theme, it would be transition, both from youth to adulthood, and from life to death.
Funeral is a masterpiece. It is a true work of art and is just as fun to listen to today as it was a decade ago. So as fans of Arcade Fire celebrate the birth of this timeless relic, give it a listen. Whether it is your first time hearing it or your hundredth, it is always a fantastic experience beginning to end.
Link to Funeral by Arcade Fire : https://play.spotify.com/album/0aGwrXjKIfAMlj1vBYLtnR