Okay, I’ve put it off long enough- let’s do this.
I feel entitled to Arcade Fire.
I know what you’re thinking- yeah, you and every other hipster on the planet!
However, in some small way, I do. Their albums are like little snapshots of my growing up, and if that’s too much for you, you might want to stop reading because I’m about to get even more ridiculous. I don’t take music lightly, I can’t ignore it, can’t get enough of it, spend too much money on it and can talk about it for hours on end. Add that fact with my favorite-live-act-with-all-members-still-alive-and-still-touring and you get marathon-long paragraphs and comparisons. So buckle in, internet, because Arcade Fire and I have some talking to do.
My entitlement stems from the fact that each album this band has made ends up being one I can’t shake away. Instead, I want to hear it again, know all the words, learn the instrument parts, discuss it with people, play it for my friends and soak up ambitiously. So, I’ll do my best to tell you why.
Funeral, their first album, screams of growing up when you don’t want to, of seeing the hurt in the world and letting it creep in, but standing at the end with one fist in the air saying, “NOT YET! You can’t take us yet!” It’s a face-to-face conversation about death, about what to do when nothing lines up like you’d heard it would and about finding something great amidst so much loss. To me, Funeral declares that we may be young, but we’ll yell until we’re hoarse to prove that you can’t take away the beauty of the world yet no matter how much death may affect it. It’s the perplexity — growing up should be better because we learn more, experience more and share more, but it also means we deal with more hurt, more loss and more pain. “Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.” But it’s not all bad- there’s love to be found amidst the cold world, and if the snow buries my neighborhood, then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours. I have a feeling this album taught me how to be a secret romantic. Funeral spun on repeat in high school for me and stuck in my brain like advice- telling me that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure how to handle the world as I got older, but that it wasn’t hopeless. It’s never hopeless, and if it ever feels that way, just sing along as loud as you can.
Neon Bible, to say the least, takes the little speck of beauty found in the world and turns it upside down. Neon Bible, at least for me, is about taking that headstrong grown-up kid into America today and basically saying, well, this is it. Neon Bible is about not being satisfied, about wanting more and about setting up camp in this world and insisting HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT. Sure, there’s beauty, but it’s been cut down and taken away and Neon Bible urges it to be brought back. Neon Bible longs for more and while Funeral let you rest in its depth and harmonies, this album urges you to move, to not stand still but to be diligent in finding out how things really are. Needless to say, this permeated my ears toward the end of high school and college. My biggest change-moving from the safety of home to being on my own, made a little more sense when this album played. The transition in my life and the fast pace it adopted all matched the rhythm of LET’S GO! The lyrics and drumbeats kept me moving, but still left me wanting more.
Combine both albums and all of these melodies were ones I wrapped up in and used as my own little defense to the world while growing up in The Suburbs.
Yes, I went there.
Perhaps Arcade Fire’s newest album, The Suburbs, is the one I stake the most claim on. We can say it’s because the lead singer Win Butler and his brother Will grew up in the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, Texas that is less than an hour away from my precious suburban hometown, but that’s too easy. We grew up near each other- no big deal, really. (Okay, it’s a little bit exciting for a music nerd like me. Sue me.) However, Suburbs strikes something with me because it’s beautiful, and I suppose I love to hear beautiful things, but it is also so ridiculously expressive and celebratory that I can’t turn it off. This frustration that continues about not being ready to transition into the real world is at its highest in these sixteen tracks, and it’s thick with nostalgia. And you know what, internet? I suppose to be honest with you, it would be so easy to tell you that high school wasn’t Disneyland and I’m overjoyed to be moved out of the seemingly-sheltered place I once lived, but sometimes I get crippled by my childhood, wishing that I could go back. I’m not saying college is a battlefield, but take it from Peter Pan or everyone on this earth that I’ve met- growing up is hard. And so to return to the place where it seemed easier, to the place where so many things, for better or for worse, shaped me into the person I am today- well, it gets me every time. “The kids wanna be so hard- but in my dreams we’re still screaming and running through the yard.” Sometimes I want to saunter on back to my old doorstep and remember when riding my bike through our neighborhood was my biggest concern. Call it emotional, but I can’t distance myself from this album and I’m so grateful Arcade Fire wrote it to share some of their own same feelings.
……..Or, you know, maybe they just wrote it to win the Grammy and are musicians with no soul. I doubt it, but in the end, it doesn’t matter to me. I like the art more than the artist, anyway.
Simply put, the fact that I have found just a small collection of songs that I can relate to in a real sense is enough of a celebration to carry me for a long time. When artists seem to take the words from my mouth and write about exactly what I feel, I get obsessed and excited. However, what’s even more exciting is when I see a stage with this displayed-
Seeing some of my favorite songs performed by some of my favorite musicians less than 5 feet in front of my face at a loud volume!!? Well, that’s a subject I can really get wordy about.
I saw Arcade Fire two nights in a row, front row, and I can honestly say those two nights were two of the best in my short twenty years to date.
….But, that’s another post altogether.
(Part 2 on its way!)