Beauty Amidst the Flames
Funeral, Canadian band Arcade Fire’s first full length, paints images of loss and redemption with tortured, often beautiful brush strokes. The majority of this record is stunning and undeniably poignant, but a portion of it is anti-climatic and sappy, creating annoying aural smudges on an otherwise flawless musical mural.
With the aid of dense, classical arrangements, the listener is catapulted into a 50 minute journey through the underbelly of human emotion. Arcade Fire crafts tales of death, divorce, and damaged love affairs, without sounding trite or dishonest. The “Neighborhood Suite” is the album’s centerpiece and its greatest moment. It consists of four separate compositions that struggle with the turbulence of family life. The most successful of the four is “Tunnels.” Organs and synthesizers eerily bounce along as haunting vocals drive the track toward an intense and breathtaking climax. Lyrics like “We let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know/Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow,” exemplify the band’s gift for transporting the listener.
Sadly, a few tracks lack the thrill and intensity of their contextual cohorts. The song “Crown of Love” includes a “We Are the World” chorus and “Town Called Malice” (theme song from “Billy Elliott” for those unfamiliar with British Post-Punk band the Jam) finale that only sound pretentious and contrived.
Despite relatively minor flaws, Funeral is an enormous achievement for such a young band. With its immense honesty, stark imagery, and relatable themes the album will surely strike a nerve with listeners.