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Arcade Fire | Lyrical Death Match

Lyrical Death Match

by Brandon Edmonds / 21.02.2011

So Arcade Fire just won a Grammy for Best Album of 2010 for The Suburbs. Let’s do a lyrical death match between the 4 best songs on that “album” and Funeral (2004) to prove how belated the boomers running the Grammy’s are. They’re only 7 years too late.

The Suburbs opens with “The Suburbs”. It’s all about how nostalgia for childhood and childhood surroundings is futile (“meant nothing at all”) and the way to redeem the meaning of your life is by having kids of your own (“I want a daughter while I’m still young”) so you can “show her some Beauty / before the damage is done”. It’s an okay song. 7/10

Funeral opens with “Tunnels” which imagines a neighborhood buried under snow in a natural disaster and a boy digs a tunnel to a girl and they live out in the wild together (“we let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know”). It’s soaring and fanciful and perfect. 9/10

The Burbs picks up with “Ready to Start” the song they closed the Grammies with, an ideal setting for this meta-commentary on artistic integrity and the moral hazards of fame (“Businessmen drink my blood / like the kids in art school said they would”). There are seriously good couplets here, a prescience about celebrity that’s scary: “the kids have always known / that the emperor wears no clothes / but to bow down to them anyway / is better than to be alone”. 8/10

But Funeral answers with “Power Out”. A guy wakes up with the power out and ice on his parents hands and he “don’t have any dreams / don’t have any plans” and he goes out into the night “to find some light”. Metaphor alert. He sees kids swinging from power lines and dying in the snow. Anarchy reigns (“nobody’s home/ so nobody minds”) and then the lines that test your faith in this band: “the power’s out in the heart of man / take it from your heart put it in your hand”. That kills me but you go ahead and smirk. 10/10

Arcade Fire Live

The Burbs “Deep Blue” and “We Used to Wait” try to open us up to “something wild” amidst the gadgetry and distracting insistence of technology in our lives. Blue recalls chess-master Gary Kasparov’s chilling loss in 1996 to the supercomputer Deep Blue (“you could never have predicted / that he could see through you”) and counsels “put the cellphone down for a while / in the night there is something wild / can you hear it breathing?”). Well can you? 7/10

Which brings us to Funeral’s “Rebellion (Lies)” – a thrilling, complicated call to reality-reality rather than the virtual kind, the simulacrum of dreams and games and media. It gets suitably angry about passivity and conformity (“sleeping is giving in, no matter what time it is” and “everytime you close your eyes, lies”). So lift those heavy eyelids and “here’s the sun, it’s alright!” and “here’s the moon, it’s alright!”. Arcade Fire are romantics. They want us to value nature by respecting what’s best in ourselves. 8/10

The Burb’s one true masterpiece is “Mountains Beyond Mountains” detailing here and now with an honesty and range most novels can’t match: “These days my life, I feel it has no purpose / But late at night the feelings swim to the surface.” In a devastating inversion of Funeral’s ‘Power Out’ – a song supercharged with the possibility of renewal – Mountains offers no light at the end of the tunnel, not even a sniff of redemption: “Living in the sprawl / dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights.” 10/10

The best song on Funeral makes it one of the best songs ever. “Wake Up” is just stupendous. Rousing Springsteen emotion run through Clash heat with a stadium busting Queen chorus and Zeppelin drums. It makes you want to dance and cry: crance. It makes you want to crance! Jesus it’s good. “Now that I’m older / my heart’s colder / and I can see that it’s a lie” are lines waiting for everyone on the other side of 30. And then the band heroically, generously shrugs off time and pain and loss and shows us how go on regardless: “I guess we’ll just have to adjust.” 11/10

Funeral The Suburbs
38/40 32/40

Eat it Grammies.

Arcade Fire

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RESPONSES (7)
  1. Somerfaan says:

    Spot on Brandon. Sonically the ‘Burbs’ is better of course, but Funeral is still the classic, and it seems that they can’t top their debut. That said, thank God the Arcade Fire won and not some other piepiejoller band.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent comparison.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    10 AND 11 OUT OF 10 for anything is a bit fanciful. There is no such thing as perfection in this world.

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  4. Dan says:

    woodcutter emo via the beatles-nice

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  5. mega-douche says:

    just not too sure about that Rococo thing somewhere in the middle though

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  6. Bonzo says:

    Great piece! Agree, but worth pointing out that Suburbs is a superb album despite not being the close to perfection of Funeral.

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  7. Amy says:

    Dude – Not disagreeing with you, i love Arcade Fire old & new, but you forgetting about the grandeur of Rococo. So orchestral. For someone thats seen Arcade Fire live a few years back, that song is one that I cannot wait to see. It sweeps me away.

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