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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
Funeral
Merge Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
There was no class I hated more in the course of my college career than Victorian Literature. For one thing, revealing the fact that I was taking "Vic Lit" always sounded kind of smutty. For another, there was a requirement of three period-specific classes for my English major, all of which were taught by the same professor - she wasn't bubbleheaded in the sense that there was air between her ears, that was just the distracting and unfortunate shape of her head; she had an inordinate love of Wuthering Heights that, despite having assigned me the text four times, did not rub off on me past page Zzzz.

Oh, how I loathed that class; it always seemed to fall after an exhausting lunchtime and before the impatience-inducing Simpsons reruns I never missed. The clock could not move fast enough as we talked about moors and bog-wading, ghosts and yellow-papered, dismal romances, flowery words to mask obviously simple premises, and the impending death of my soul.

Stodgy. Etiquette abiding. Fanciful. Energy-sapping. Needless to say, I ducked in the back of the class and attempted to daydream away the hours without getting called on to read aloud.

In those shadowy moments, when my mind did occasionally drift to Victorian times, a flurry of harpsichord music would play. The tasteful sequins of a masquerade would be etched in my subconscious, and I would watch several nameless characters twirl about - never once uttering a bit of dialogue, because that, dear friends, would turn me off as much as Bronte. In that thankful near-silence, there was only music and pasty saintliness. I contentedly passed the time with my mental doodling, without any indication I'd learned anything about the era, but I did manage to fulfill my requirements without having a breakdown.

All of this echoes my initial impression of Arcade Fire. After having received a lovely, heavily calligrified letter and a tightly-packaged first EP, I noted their ability to take the listener back to a similarly uncertain time of scripted dance and sudden illness, in the same imaginative way that my distraction saved me from the awful truth of boredom. They have a mismatched style that pins stately, rising sounds to bleating vocals - with a dramatic awareness of history and modernity, they take what might have otherwise seemed intolerable or confining and make it fairly pleasing.

Funeral brings back each of those memories of the band, but in a way that is easier to latch onto than their eponymous EP. This time, you're allowed to sing along with, get swept up in and fully absorb their every detailed movement. What's more, they introduce a New Wave inspired sound that is reminiscent of The Talking Heads' More Songs about Buildings and Food - that is, if it were met with baroque, lo-fi squabbling and charcoal silhouettes. Funeral has the much-needed pulse and cohesion that was lacking in their first effort, as well as a handful of wholly contagious songs sure to resound in the minds of the sophisticated, cotillion-happy masses.

Immediately, there are more songs here to grab you right away. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" is, indisputably, one of the greatest songs of 2004. It bears a fantastic likeness to vintage New Order and surges with brightness and energy. Its choppy, spastic twitches and dense layers provide for an infinitely satisfying track - far greater than I could have imagined in hearing the preliminary EP.

Three of the ending tracks - "Wake Up," "Haiti," and "Rebellion (Lies)," respectively - also rely heavily on chugging, simple beats and eccentric (but not overdone) tendencies to keep the listener rapt in attention. We can playfully tumble along with Funeral, letting the tracks become progressively better and more addictive, and likewise, easier to digest. Between these moments of unexpected connectivity, however, it is also much easier to allow Arcade Fire to revel in their own odd fetishes. Even the paranoid, staccato accordion interplay of "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" or the sparse and spindly bloodletting of "Une Annee Sans Lumiere" become disarmingly acceptable: We warm to their weirdness in much the same way as Blonde Redhead's or even Devo's. Funeral sidles up to the same strangely intriguing sensibilities; it is cloaked in perpetual mystery, peculiar lightheartedness and elusive romanticism.

Like the influences they've found in the Talking Heads and New Order, there is definitely more to take in beyond the initially appealing surface - and on Funeral, the charging immediacy will doubtlessly draw you to the greater depth. All this being said, I may have been too eager to pay lip service to the Arcade Fire EP in principle, then place it squarely on my shelf. Funeral makes a solid case for revisiting, not only in repeated listens and dissections, but to fully envision Arcade Fire's potential as a band. The more I listened, the more I learned, accepted, and grew to enjoy their work - and I, for one, am surprisingly eager for their next lesson.

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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