This Temporary Life

Love and rock are fickle things

Acts that Just Might Last: #1: Arcade Fire December 7, 2009

Filed under: Band Reviews,End Of The Decade — TemporaryLife @ 12:57 am

There’s no denying the fact that blogging has taken on a life of its own, especially in the last couple years. Music bloggers, more or less, wield the power to make or break the careers of musicians, and as such, it makes it difficult to pinpoint which bands are going to be around later on. I mean, who expected Grizzly Bear to gain as much speed as they have? I certainly wouldn’t have called that one, initially.

So, being a power-wielding music blogger, I have given a lot of thought to the subject of the bands that are going to be around to talk about when 2019 rolls around. Below is the beginning of a series of analysis on what bands I imagine will still be going strong, and maybe a few that will never last. But don’t bother asking me which bands our kids will be talking about; I’m still not sure about that one.

1. Arcade Fire

Nobody's cold, nobody's warm.

So, maybe I lied. There is a band, a glorious band, that I have a feeling will be talked about when our kids get old enough to browse our record collections, looking for hidden gems. Amidst the hordes is a rusty old symphony that, when turned on, creaks into life and howls and looms and growls with a burning intensity that has yet to be matched. In 2004, when Funeral first came out, I remember seeing Arcade Fire perform on some late night talk show, and I remembered that, for a reason I could not truly explain, seeing them work their magic excited me in a way that I hadn’t yet, in my pre-indie rock soul, been excited before. I went out and listened to Funeral, and was struck by how unique it all sounded. The tearful hope demonstrated in “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” (“You changed all the lead/sleeping in my head/as the day grows dim/I hear you sing a golden hymn”) and betrayed later on in “Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)” (“Time keeps creepin’ through the neighborhood/killing old folks, wakin’ up babies/just like we knew it would”) or the rejoicing centerpiece “Wake Up,” when Win Butler howls out, “We’re just a million little god’s causin rain storms turnin’ every good thing to rust!”

Pitchfork’s end-of-the-year analysis began with a simple question: will there ever be another Funeral? To my ears, there never will be. Arcade Fire may never top themselves, but they hit home in the same way with 2007’s Neon Bible, a more polished and less hope-filled affair. While Funeral‘s sadness was mixed with the knowledge that, after the flood, everything was going to be good again, Neon Bible marked its mission statement in its atmospheric title track: “Not much chance for survival if the neon Bible is right.” On a whole, Neon Bible fell short of what made Funeral truly unique, sounding like Bruce Springsteen in places (“Keep the Car Running,” “(Antichrist Television Blues)”) worked out well for the album, but missed the entire point of the previous album. Listening to Funeral again and again, you can never truly see anything that resembles another band, in any way. Of course, their influences bleeding through on a track like “Keep the Car Running” do nothing to dampen the overall brilliance of Neon Bible, being one of the best outright copycats on that side of Gaslight Anthem. Neon Bible‘s manifesto of morose started in “Neon Bible comes full circle with the staggering closer “My Body is a Cage,” likely the best song the band has written to date (Next to “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” of course). Its quietly burning and building pipe organs that flourish over Butler’s laments finally explode, as they have been threatening so severely to, halfway through, culminating in his pleas howled into the wind: “Set my spirit free! Set my body free!”

The two albums work together in a way that is hardly ever found in modern music: when I discussed Neon Bible at the end of 2007, I found myself unable to get away from comparisons to its predecessor, and it seems this is still the case. It’s not a bad thing, in any way: Arcade Fire will most likely be the ones to outlast the competition because you can’t separate their work: it’s all just a morality tale in several acts. When all is said and done, it’s hard to say who the band will sound like, but I have no problem sticking around just to find out.


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