TOP TRACK: “Rebellion (Lies)”
No other album of the past decade has spoken so profoundly to so diverse a group of people as Arcade Fire’s Funeral. From the unassuming piano line that opens “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” to the triumphant flood of crooning and orchestration that closes “In the Backseat,” Arcade Fire’s seminal debut exemplifies the marriage of delicately layered instrumentation and poetic, passionate lyrics. It’s a photo album registering transient shots of everyday existence, developed in stark definition and taken from the full spectrum of human sensation, from rapture to terror, from love to hate.
The result is an oddly uplifting album, even as it harps on broken families, lost love and death.
Take “Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” the frustrated story of a boy who clashes with his father and runs away from home. It’s impossible not to empathize with Win Butler’s impassioned delivery – repeated themes of abandonment and familial friction propel this and other songs with a frantic, engrossing distress.
That same distress appears again on the melancholy “Crown of Love,” where Butler compares love to cancer. As the lyrics move into rain-drenched images of graves and snuffed-out candles, the ballad meanders through dramatic strings and an instrumental crescendo. At 4:15 is begins to fade out, as if the gloomy message didn’t matter at all.
While some songs despair, just as many exult. The album’s most successful single, the simply constructed “Rebellion (Lies),” begs its audience to stay lucid in a world of dishonesty. As Arcade Fire fight against “sleeping” and heeding what “people say,” the repeated chanting of the word “lies” hammers their point home. The track, both grandiose and sincere, is a vitalizing cry of carpe diem, challenging the emotional and spiritual death of a society in peril.
It’s depressing, but there’s a grain of hope. In 2004, Arcade Fire told the world that – in spite of any calamity or death – they, at least, would have your back. Five years later, it remains a powerful and moving message for increasingly turbulent times.
— Eric Vilas-Boas