Thursday, September 1, 2005

Records In Review: The Arcade Fire--The Arcade Fire

Once again, I'm indulging my suspicion of over-hyped bands. I have to admit that I haven't really taken to the singles I've heard off the Montreal band's big furry hit album Funeral, as their tightly-wound new wave revivalist sound makes me want to switch to decaf. This is their debut disc, which is referred to as an ep, despite being longer than your average Hives album. And it's actually quite good.

I've wondered a lot recently where this pairing of Brit '80s new wave and country came from. I guess it depends which way 'round you're looking: was it new wave revivalists gone c&w, or American jangle-pop bands discovering the '80s? In any event, I blame it all on New Order for doing "Love Vigilantes." That's my theory and I'm sticking to it...'til tomorrow morning, at least. Any music historians and scenesters out there are welcome to set me straight.

The Arcade Fire has a fair bit of twang to it, although it's most prominent on the two tracks that book-end this collection, which are my least favourite. There's some good material in between, though, when they're not sounding like a less arch version of The Flaming Lips. "No Cars Go" is a good straight-ahead number with more of that aforementioned new wave bent, but it's less in-your-face than their recent music. "I'm Sleeping In A Submarine," which revolves around a nice 12/8 swirling piano bit, is prettily whimsical and understated--or as understated as Regine Chassagne's Bjork sound-alike vocals allow. "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" is the real studio production piece of the record and there's a definite Flaming Lips correlation viz the slightly OTT orchestration and general sweep, but the development is more organic and less episodic than on The Lips' more recent stuff. A lot of nice textural contrasts, too.

This edition is supposedly remastered, although it's not credited in any way. The artsy packaging of the disc will no doubt appeal to youngsters with Romantic tendencies, a condition which is now apparently treatable.