I got into Arcade Fire by mistake.
In the early 2000s we watched the Alan Ball’s brilliant TV series Six Feet Under, about a family who run a funeral home. In amongst the angst there was a lot of dark humour – each episode opened with a death, which got progressively odder and more inventive over the course of 63 episodes. The series was beautifully written and acted, and introduced us to Michael C Hall (Dexter) and Rachel Griffiths (Brothers and Sisters).
Without giving away any spoilers, the final moments of the final episode were possibly the best ending I’ve seen to any long-running series. As one character drives through the landscape in a re-painted hearse, we see flash-forwards to the deaths of the characters who have survived to the end of the series, and it’s quite wonderful – very few series give you that sense of a true ending, where you know how everything will play out for these characters you’ve lived with for five years.
And over this final scene plays a truly epic piece of music. I didn’t know who it was by or what it was called, so when I was in my local CD shop (remember those?) I checked the soundtrack album. Final track – Cold Wind by Arcade Fire. That’ll be it, then, I thought.
I was already aware of Arcade Fire as being the darlings of the kind of music press I was reading, famous for the freeform nature of their gigs, including marching off stage, down the aisles and finishing gigs on the steps outside the theatre. They were very hip.
So I bought their first album, Funeral. And found that that epic final music from Six Feet Under wasn’t actually Arcade Fire at all (it was a track called Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie – set yourself aside 7 minutes and 55 seconds and enjoy that too).
Ok, so the Six Feet Under thing hadn’t worked out. But I’d accidentally discovered a really good band. They’re from Montreal (though Régine Chassagne is from Haiti) and tend to be classed as “Indie”, but some of their music is particularly grand. I wasn’t keen on their latest album, Reflektor, but it may grow on me in time. And Neon Bible and The Suburbs were both excellent collections of songs.
And they’re well worth seeing live. Arcade Fire are a big band, at least six members with two or three more added for tours, and there’s always something energetic going on on stage.
A happy accident, then.
One other thing: when Google launched Chrome Arcade Fire released a video feature based on their track The Wilderness Downtown which links to Google Earth images of whatever address you type in – give it a go, it takes a few seconds to get going, but very interesting (I suspect it will only work with Chrome, but I haven’t tried it with anything else).
And if you visit their website www.arcadefire.com there are some other interesting interactive videos – this is a band that like to experiment,
Here are a few links to some of my favourite Arcade Fire tracks:
Intervention: For some reason, this YouTube link sets the song to footage of The Battleship Potemkin.
Sprawl II: From The Suburbs – “Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains”.
Wake Up: This is the song that closes the concerts – big singalong bit that the crowd are still singing when they leave the building. If they haven’t played it, they’re coming back for an encore; when they play it. it’s time to go home. Looking for a link for the song, I found this live version with David Bowie (who was a big supporter of Arcade Fire).