Canadian alternative rock can be really proud. After Cowboy Junkies, Our Lady Peace, and Barenaked Ladies, Arcade Fire is another Canadian group that has been climbing the charts since 2005. Having been repeatedly compared to Mercury Rev, The Go-Betweens, and The Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire have influences from the British alternative rock scene, mainly The Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Echo & The Bunnymen or even The Cure in their earliest, gloomiest sound. Some also find similarities with Nick Cave, particularly in their debut album “Funeral” (2004) and with The Pixies and Calexico in their second release “Neon Bible” (2007). Nevertheless, innovative, creative, gloomy and more punk than ever in their latest release “The Suburbs” (2010), Arcade Fire is a great alternative rock story and seem more mature after three albums to share their quality sound with more fans.
Actually, quality has played a fundamental role in Arcade Fire’s releases. Quality and courage. Because how else can one explain their guts (?), bravery (?), even nerve to name their debut album “Funeral” (2004) to honor the recently deceased family members of several band members? “Funeral” echoes the group’s grief as it recalls childhood memories anchored by swinging bass lines, swelling guitars, steady drums and the shaky vocals of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.
In “Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels)”, Arcade Fire write “And if the snow buries my neighborhood, and if my parents are crying, then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours, yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours…” The power of the lyrics is omnipresent in “Funeral” as the album’s exceptional instrumentation and electrifying tempo anchor some of the most mysterious rock anthology of the decade. “Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels)” was awarded #10 on Pitchfork Media’s Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. Other great tracks from “Funeral” are “Wake Up”, “Crown of Love”, and “Rebellion Lies.”
“Funeral” was ranked #7 in NME’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade; #7 in Uncut’s Top 150 Albums of the Decade; #6 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the Decade; #4 in Sputnikmusic’s list of Top 100 Albums of the Decade; #3 in Rhapsody’s 100 Best Albums of the Decade and #1 in Pitchfork Media’s Top 50 Albums of 2004, among other awards.
“Neon Bible” (2007)
“Neon Bible” (2007) is a completely different story. More outward, more extrovert than “Funeral”, “Neon Bible” echoes the anger and bitterness of Arcade Fire against fundamental values including the church, the government or the military. Featuring an escalating crescendo throughout the entire album, with “Neon Bible” Arcade Fire establish themselves as a great alternative – indie rock band. The album is original; the sound is original; but above all, the quality of Arcade Fire is here again; carrying a different originality way, yet present again.
In “Intervention”, Arcade Fire write “Working for the church, while your family dies, you take what they give you, and you keep it inside, every spark of friendship and love, will die without a home, hear the soldier groan, “we’ll go at it alone.”” Clearly embittered and disillusioned, Arcade Fire use their steady drums and feisty guitar swings and produce great tracks such as the pretty introvert “Black Mirror”, the intensified “Keep the Car Running” and “No Cars Go” (that so much resembles to the Cure sound) and of course, the hymn “Ocean of Noise.”
“Neon Bible” has received several awards including #4 in Rolling Stone’s list Albums of the Year 2007; #4 in NME’s Albums of the Year 2007; #2 in Billboard’s Staff Consensus Albums of the Year 2007; and #1 in Q’s Albums of the Year 2007, among others.
“The Suburbs” (2010)
And now “The Suburbs” (2010) come. More rock, more punk, more mature than “Funeral” and “Neon Bible” together and certainly more extrovert than both. Featuring clear influences from the post-punk sound of The Cure and The Joy Division, the electro sound of Depeche Mode and the speedy rock of The Strokes or The Clash, “The Suburbs” are the synonym of an epic album.
The most impressive element in “The Suburbs” is that, musically, all 16 tracks create an amalgam of everything that was worth listening in “Funeral” and “Neon Bible”. As a matter of fact, all tracks have their place in the album and in spite their length (some of them are nearly or over 5 minutes), they are necessary because they echo the band’s emotional effort. Some are introvert like “Sprawl I (Flatland)” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, some feature soaring guitars and punk influences like “Ready to Start” and “Month of May”, but overall the album is dedicated to the children. Like the album’s title and cover suggest, a suburban theme is omnipresent throughout the entire album. “The Suburbs,” “Empty Room,” “City With No Children,” “Suburban War,” “Sprawl,” “Sprawl II,” “The Suburbs (continued)”, all refer to modern suburbia, and to children.
There is no doubt that “The Suburbs” is one of the best albums ever. Although it has been released in August 2010, two months later is already ranked #1 on U.S Billboard 200 in on U.K. Albums Chart, as well as in several other countries including Canada, Belgium, Portugal, and Ireland. UK !Some of the most remarkable tracks in “The Suburbs” are “Ready to Start,” “We Used to Wait,” “The Suburbs,” and “Month of May,” but it is more than certain that more singles will hit the charts soon from this record.
One thing is certain: since “Funeral,” Arcade Fire found their steps and is constant on the rise. Their fans can only hope that the future of this talented Canadian alternative rock group can be as bright as their latest release.