In the documentary Fearless Freaks, Jack White of the White Stripes attests to the influence of the Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne by saying recent bands are ripping off his singing style.
White didn’t name any names, but Win Butler of The Arcade Fire could certainly be a candidate. Personally, the first name I thought of when I heard Butler sing was David Byrne of Talking Heads.
That immediate recognition at first didn’t warm me up to Funeral, the band’s debut album. But the sheer ferocity of the performance on this album is enough to shut anyone up.
Funeral was one of the sleeper success stories of 2004. Released in September 2004, the album has become something of a staple among indie rock fans.
Although the Arcade Fire shares a direct spiritual link creatively with the likes of the Flaming Lips and Talking Heads, the band manages to sound distinct.
The bizarre mix of orchestral instruments, rock guitars and, in a few instances, disco beats is both instantly catchy and compellingly unsettling. Where the Flaming Lips can get downright lush and symphonic, the Arcade Fire feels more like grotesque chamber music.
The band sounds unhinged by the second chorus of “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, with dischordant guitar chords breaking in the middle of the song. “Crown of Love” starts off quietly, but like a New Orleans second line, the song bursts into a joyous mess for its conclusion.
After a while, the sheer density of the Canadian collective’s music can get heavy-handed. But with multiple listens, the seductive appeal of the band’s sonic terrain makes that heavy hand seem perfectly coherent.
In other words, the first few listens may leave the impression that the Arcade Fire is silly, weird and far too hip. The remaining spins leave you craving for more.
Funeral is a strong debut, the kind of album that demands attention by reaching out through the speakers and man-handling a listener’s ears.