The Arcade Fire are not the quintessential emo band, and they do
not embody the sound of bands like Braid, Dashboard Confessional or
Cursive — their sound more closely resembles groups such as
Interpol, The Walkmen and The Cure. Often though, emo bands are
classified solely on their lyrical content; if this were true, The
Arcade Fire are an emo group. However, because all music conveys
emotions, and much of it is about loss, it is clear that the feel
of the songs and musical arrangements are what actually categorize
groups.

It is this catch-22 that creates such ambiguity in The Arcade
Fire’s music. With guitar riffs that would fit in with the
most common New York rock band, and Win Butler’s distinct yet
familiar voice — most closely mimicking The Cure’s
Robert Smith — The Arcade Fire are clearly not emo.

During the recording of Funeral, The Arcade Fire’s
debut album, relatives of several band members died. Because of
their overwhelming grief the artists’ feelings and
tribulations have seeped into the songs. Nearly every track on
Funeral deals with a different emotion from love to loss and
anything in between. On “Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” a
violent household is portrayed to the excitement and intrigue of
the neighborhood: “So the neighbors can dance / in the police
disco lights.” The most emotional track on the album is
“Crown of Love” in which Win repeatedly croons,
“If you still want me / please forgive me.” At nearly
four minutes, however, this sappy ballad becomes overly upbeat and
the music suggests a happier tone. This technique displays The
Arcade Fire’s ability to see beyond the misery and pain of
their current situation — a concept almost never associated
with emo groups.

The overused string arrangements add a melancholy tone to almost
all of Funeral’s 10 tracks — a common fix-it
among many groups. When The Arcade Fire attempt to convey sadness
through the music (and not just the lyrics), it appears that their
only answer is adding an assortment of strings layered slightly
over their poppy guitar riffs (“Neighborhood #3 (Power
Out)”). Funeral does not improve upon this pretentious
effect that has already been overused in the past — the
guitar riffs and outcome of most of the songs destroy any feeling
of sorrow that these additions created.

Funeral’s melodies and instrument arrangements are
solid enough to fight on the frontline of the underground music
scene. The guitar riffs throughout the album are all strong and
catchy, and with the delicate piano and keyboard drones in the
background, the songs are extremely listenable and nearly
infectious — Régine Chassagne’s soft feminine
voice adds to the eloquence of the album (“In the
Backseat”). Funeral is not without its faults, though.
The sporadic feel of several songs (reverting back to a dance beat
and optimistic feel) detracts from the sincerity. Many times, the
lyrics are slightly too sentimental for the music playing behind
them. However, The Arcade Fire’s musical aptitude and promise
on their debut album, Funeral, are an extremely strong
showing that puts them in a position to be pop mainstays, despite
their possibly damning sense of gloom and emo labeling.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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