Saturday, 30 May 2015

50 albums to take to my grave #23: Funeral

Quite simply, as good a debut album as you will ever hear. Arcade Fire had been rather low key before they put out 'Funeral', but by god did they announce themselves in style. In spite of its ominous title and tragic background - four of the band members lost family members during its recording - 'Funeral' is a triumphant, celebratory rallying call. It kicks adversity firmly between the legs and sings defiant, joyous anthems, arms aloft.

All I'd heard by Arcade Fire was the two tracks they performed on Jools Holland's show, but the sheer energy of their performance forced me into buying the CD. One of the finest decisions I ever made. The running theme throughout 'Funeral' is our past - our childhoods, where we grew up, the things we did, the people we knew, what we learnt and what we're still trying to figure out. Yes, I say 'we' because whoever you are, wherever you're from, we've all had the same experiences even if they're very different.

The Neighborhood suite is an incredible achievement by such a young band. Tunnels sets things off at a pace, but still builds into something bigger; Laïka sounds like Talking Heads if they were a 6-piece alt-folk band; Power Out remains one of the best tracks of the 21st Century to date; and 7 Kettles is a fitting closer to side one, bringing us down from the tense euphoria before it all kicks off again on side 2. Punctuating these four is Une Année Sans Lumière, a quieter, melancholic moment that is perfectly placed in the middle of it all.

Side 2 opens with the lovely, yet strangely brooding Crown Of Love. There's a sadness about it that is completely defied by its sweet melody, sighing strings and angelic backing vocals. Wake Up is the arms aloft anthem that takes the roof off every venue it's ever played at (even the outdoor ones!). Haiti is where Régine Chassagne can shine, singing of her troubled homeland in her mother tongue over a melange of acoustic instruments and a slightly threatening cacophony rumbling away in the background. Rebellion (Lies) though is the real highlight for me. It's an incredible track, full of mischief and menace, celebrating the times we were up to no good and fighting back against the perceived lies fed to us as children. "Come and hide your lovers underneath the covers" sings Win Butler, cheekily. And we really want to, naughty smiles on our faces, but worried our parents might walk in when we're least expecting it.

Régine sees things out with the seemingly tender In The Backseat, its sting in the tail lurking three minutes in, and it all climaxes in a whirl of guitars, strings and drums before we're brought back down from the euphoric splendour gently, but with enough air still in our lungs to enjoy another day.

I'm a notoriously grumpy old git, and having suffered from depression for more than a decade, I can sometimes wallow in the murkiness of life's festering swampland. Yet 'Funeral' is a record I can listen to time and time again, whatever the mood, and emerge with my head full of positivity and vibrant energy. It's an astonishing, life-affirming album and one I think I need for the sake of my sanity. It is hailed almost universally as a modern classic. You simply cannot argue. No! You cannot!

Here's that phenomenal Jools Holland performance in which they stormed through Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) and Rebellion (Lies). Still blows my mind to this day; Regine especially is just fantastic!

And here they are doing Wake Up with some old geezer you might have seen before:


  1. Yep, a really excellent album and the Later footage is terrific. Must dig it out for a spin.

  2. There was a point where I wasn't really keeping up with music, I'd heard about Arcade Fire but not really listened to them. I then saw them on that Fashion Rocks performance and was blown away.
    Another outstanding moment was this one where they start playing their gig in a lift !

  3. Coincidentally I picked up a copy of this for 49p in my local charity shop to replace my previous burn

  4. Terrific review of one of the best albums of the noughties. Was going to say the last 10 years, then realised it was released in 2004. How did that happen ? If I didn't already have the album, I would have bought it on the strength of this excellent review.