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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire EP
Self-Released

Rating: 7/10 ?


October 1, 2004
There is a man near the corner of Chestnut and Michigan whose beard is coated in frost, but his mouth spits the hot fog of truth. He is graced by sandwich board and tattered glove, and he holds sole ownership of a fact that will change the world: the flood is coming. You may drive by without notice, you may gawk and dismiss, you may feel pity or self-righteousness; but he is right, and you should be afraid.

Arcade Fire's self-titled debut is a conspiracy theory put to music, but one proven thoroughly right in hindsight. "Old Flame" opens the album with a reedy lick strangely similar to "Constant Craving," which is off-putting at first, but allows the organic sound to gravitate toward plodding, yelping discovery. It screams, "You knew in five minutes/but I knew in one sentence" as if receiving a message from God that no one else comprehends.

The off-kilter timing and fractured speech of Arcade Fire is reminiscent of The Unicorns or Broken Social Scene, both of whom have garnered quite a following of late, but Arcade Fire seems like a disowned uncle to that sound. Win Butler can yowl like Robert Smith or Conor Oberst in his delivery, but he can't suppress the murderous glint in his eye. Because of this, there is a distance between Arcade Fire and their audience - and while truth from distant perspectives often looks crazed, it is still truth. Arcade Fire is not instantly accessible, but it is constantly proven right.

"No Cars Go" is the obvious showpiece of the album, bursting at the seams with clever IDM, inspired New Wave playfulness, and an enveloping nature. Their silly side breaks through as they chant "Hey!" in preparation, but as the alien soprano of Regine Chassagne hovers like a threat over mockingly straightforward verses, the track turns into a bizarre, multi-layered masterwork. It is the most akin to Broken Social Scene, rife with danceable glee and hefty pauses, but has been pared down to a smaller scale. As such, it sounds like a sprawling, twee rendition, but remarkably rises to the same intense heights with an apparent wink. As soon as they've demanded your attention, they coyly hind behind their secrets: "No Cars Go" might giggle and bat its eyelashes, but it knows something, and by now you're curious.

"Headlights Look Like Diamonds" is almost eerie in its accessibility, clinking toy pianos, and empty, childlike eyes. It builds in speed and repetition, but breaks down once the warbling layers start to overcome their accompaniment. When the echoes of disturbed ghosts pass through the end of the track, you're aware something frightening was coming, but could not prepare. Guitars roar to a close while the wraithlike howling continues, and the gulf keeps growing wider between artists and audience. It is hard to listen, because you don't want to believe, but by now the evidence of the ethereal is too substantial to ignore.

"My Heart is an Apple" is Lynchian in its sadness; you can just imagine a scene of strangulation and despair set to a cement canvas. It wafts, vocally, but is supraliminal in its message, like a giant sign that reads "DAMNATION" before the feminine coda reprises a rhyme about suicide. To be sure, Regine's unfamiliar, high pitch is often most upsetting, but because it juxtaposes the ordinary with the otherworldly in such a disquieting way.

With acoustic tangents, French horns, thin saxophones, birds, banjos, harps and recorded tap dancing, there are many pieces that give the album a natural feel, but make it all the more curious as to why we can't fully connect. The distance never leaves, and so creates a layer of residue that leads to fear. Arcade Fire, ranting on the street corner, are undoubtedly human in their prospect, but it's hard to relate. The effect is skewered and artful, but always hinges on the threatening. The distance, then, becomes an art form that underlies their sole intent: The flood is coming. This is your warning.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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