I’m trying to remember why I didn’t listen to Arcade Fire when they burst on the scene in 2004 with their first album, Funeral. I probably read a pretentious review of the album on Pitchfork or something and decided to write them off, or I was a contrary 23 year old who didn’t want to listen to an album because everyone else* was. Or both! I don’t know.
Either way, at 42 years old, I decided to listen to the entire album for the first time. Of course I had heard Wake Up (I didn’t live under THAT big of a rock!) and Rebellion (Lies), but I hadn’t heard anything else. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but spoiler, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Funeral is essentially a nearly perfect album. Yeah, 23 year old me would be surprised too.
Anyway, here’s my review!
The album opens with Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), which is my favorite out of the four Neighborhood songs on the album. A good opening song sounds like a sunrise to me, and that’s what this song evoked for me while listening to it. I loved it.
I also enjoyed the other Neighborhood songs and thought they flowed together nicely, with the song “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” breaking up the neighborhood theme. (Fun, somewhat related fact: I did not know Arcade Fire was from Montreal. How did I not know this?) I’m thinking so far, I’m really digging this album.
Then… I listen to Crown of Love. Meh. Usually I don’t mind songs in 3/4 time but nope, not a fan of this one. It reminded me too much of the song Oh! Darling by the Beatles, and I think that’s the better song. It also ends with the song fading out, which is one of my ultimate pet peeves when it comes to songs on an album. No, end the song! Don’t fade it out!
Thankfully my disappointment didn’t last long, because the best 3 songs on the album came in succession: Wake Up, Haiti, and Rebellion (Lies). I’m not going to talk much about Wake Up because it’s a damn fantastic, almost perfect song, but I WILL talk about my #1 favorite thing on an album—one song transitioning into another! (I know that this isn’t much different than the song fade, but maybe I’m still contrary, 19 years later!)
After the best trio of songs in the world, the album ends with “In the Backseat”. I liked this song as an album closer, but I’m not sure I’d ever listen to it on its own. Still, it was the perfect ending to a pretty damn good album.
So, overall, what did I think? As I said above, this is a nearly perfect album, with an upbeat opener, a slight cooldown with the next couple songs, a trio of FANTASTIC tunes, then ending on an introspective note. Every transition just worked; (almost) every song hit me somewhere. My only complaint is the inclusion of Crown of Love, but I can just skip it every time I listen to the album. I still have yet to find an album where I listen to the ENTIRE thing without skipping a song, but I’m still searching!
My ultimate praise? If I had a record player, I’d buy this album and listen to it while writing or journaling or doing something where music with just enough feeling can accompany my creativity. My favorite albums are albums I can listen to at night, either alone with my thoughts or while making things, and this album fits the bill.
* I don’t know who this proverbial ‘everyone else’ was in my mind back in 2004, because it’s not like I had a slew of music loving friends at this time. Like I said, I must have been too cool, or something.