Review Summary: A beautiful musical opus that transcends its surface meaning with moments of both heart-wrenching tragedy and uplifting encouragement.
By now, if you haven’t at least heard of
Arcade Fire, chances are you don’t listen to very much music. They have taken the world by storm with their unique approach to composing songs and writing lyrics, all the while making it sound smooth and effortless. Over the course of the decade, they have paid their dues; now they stand near the top of the ladder of respected artists and deservedly so. Funeral
marks the beginning of Arcade Fire’s meteoric rise to fame, one that occurred rapidly and can be majorly attributed to their efforts on this very album.
is an ironic title for a debut album, as a band’s initial release should
symbolize the unveiling of an endless realm of possibilities, or an infinite scope of ascertainable dreams. The closed-off, blunt nature of the title actually comes from an extraordinarily unfortunate sequence of tragic events that struck the families of the band members during the album’s creation. The raw emotion stemming from these events can be felt in every crack of Win Butler’s voice, as well as in the sweeping violins of the downtrodden “Crown of Love.” At no point, however, does Funeral
become a plea for the listener’s sympathy. Each song is conveyed with utmost confidence, as the anthemic production, mezmerizing instrumentation, and relatable, sing-along choruses provide an open invitation for listeners to embrace every aspect of Funeral
. “Wake Up” is actually quite a depressing song, with sad introspective lyrics like, “Somethin’ filled up my heart with nothin’, someone told me not to cry” and “but now that I’m older, my heart’s colder, and I can see that it’s a lie.” However, as per the nature of the album, you would never know it from the sound alone. The song kicks off with a beautifully harmonized sequence of ahh ah
’s, harps, and clashing cymbals. The song has a larger-than-life feel to it which, especially upon the first couple of listens, packs a punch harder than anything Arcade Fire has ever done. Overall, “Wake Up”, just like the overriding portions of Funeral
, takes the sad/deeply brooding tones of Win Butler and provides them with a contrasting instrumental sense of uplifting, inconspicuous optimism.
It is also in this way that Arcade Fire builds a natural flow and progression from one song to the next. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, which begins with some carefully played atmospheric piano notes, gradually picks up the pace until it turns into a fast-tempo indie rocker. That segways straight into the upbeat “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” which continues to show Arcade Fire’s pension for making emotionally charged music with one hundred percent enthusiasm and energy. In fact, the band doesn’t seem to hold back at all on Funeral
, both in terms of effort and intentions. From the get-go it is clear that Arcade Fire wants
this album to be huge. Everything about the album screams “epic”, and every track on the record is over-the-top by nature. Excluding the more reserved “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” (which is yet another highlight on an album that is absolutely packed with them), and perhaps also “Haiti”, Funeral
is a nonstop march through triumphant, glorious sounding musical opuses that all have the same intention: to be the best song that you have ever heard. While each one may come damn close to achieving that goal, they also leave you with few moments to catch your breath, something that takes away from the emotional and instrumental progression towards climactic peaks. Instead, what you have is a ceaseless bid for perfection. At times this may cause the best tracks on the album to lose their luster (especially after several listens). But then again, without Arcade Fire’s limitless ambition, we would be left without most endearing traits that compose Funeral
. With songs like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “In the Backseat” anchoring the latter portion of the album, Funeral
is (dare I say) flawless from start to finish.
overflows with all the things an album needs to be a phenomenal listen. It is brimming with grandeur. It radiates a sense of triumph while harboring tragic undertones by way of the lyrics, thus working on two emotional levels. It confidently brings several new concepts to the table, while molding and reconstructing any rehashed ideas until they sound fresh and personalized. All these things it does in one tidy, ten song album that could easily be considered among the greatest debuts of any musical act in history. Funeral
provided the foundation for one of the best bands of our generation, and one would be foolish not to give this the time and attention that it so richly deserves.