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The Arcade Fire:: Funeral (Album Review)

I was having a long conversation with a dear friend today about that thing in music that’s always a step ahead of words. At best I could say it’s that little spark in a song that stimulates the flow of neurotransmitters to the emotional centers of the brain, which sets off feelings and memories and colors, acts as catalyst for actions, reactions, catharsis. The oil that greases life. While we were spinning this thread of conversation I was listening to The Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’. Appropriate does not begin to describe. I hear certain comparisons in their work. Maybe where The Walkmen took the grandiosity of Joshua Tree-era U2 and ran into a more intense place with it, The Arcade Fire took the same thing and scaled it down, made it humble and suburban but no less potent. An incomplete analogy. Throwing in some of David Bowie’s best work and gluing the whole mess together with the most subtle parts of Modest Mouse’s energy and modernity comes close. But it’s still not enough. But that’s music. The best of it is always a step ahead of words. The closest I can get to what this album is about is a starry night in a suburban neighborhood and some friends spending their last night on earth together around a space heater. If that conveys a feeling then this album will do things for you. I think I crafted the image out of the song titles; there are four numbered “Neighborhood” sketches, as well as “Un Année sans Lumiere” (French for ‘an evening without light’). The album carries a torch through somber desperation and soaring choruses, filled with strings and hope; it starts and finishes strong, and though it is strongest when there are no discernable traces of their influence, it still remains great through and through. This review is a gusher, but this kind of emotional warmth is worth a little gush and a lack of vocabulary. It’s not going to change music, but it could well be the soundtrack to times that change you.