yeah, I’m a sucker for huge, vaulting grandeur. Maybe I can’t even distinguish the earned kind from the cheaply lyrical kind, the kind you see in Irish soap commercials and SUV ads. Maybe Danny Elfman scores get to me (well, at least the “aaaahing” chorus for “Edward Scissorhands”) and maybe the big Hammer-of-Thor obliterate-all-discernment cliches work too goddamn well on my ears. But HOLY FUCK those horns that swell up near the end of “Ocean of Noise,” like the flowering promise of the bass line’s suggested melody, held at bay for the entire song’s length. The horns’ arrival is spectacularly dramatic, accompanied by echo-laden guitar and held aloft by a banging piano doubling the melody. Slowly, the song transforms from measured and muted to triumphant, an exalted procession. And yes, YES they sound like mariachi horns. That’s the FUCKING BEAUTY OF IT, that’s what stirs the lizard brain and makes the whole moment magical, the surprise — who invited these guys into the session? — and the familiarity, the sound we’ve all heard somewhere, in a shitty Chi-Chi’s-style Mexican restaurant, in a subway, wherever. The Arcade Fire are working a broad streak of populism with both fervor and dedication, and I love them unreservedly for it. As a listener, I have to admit that while cul-de-sacs hide invaluable treasures that I have made my life’s work to snuffle out, I prefer bringing said treasures to the light rather than slavering over them, Gollum-like, alone. There is nothing more depressing to me than a dank basement record shop with rank, stale air and greasy-haired middle-aged males, walking cautionary tales, shuffling discontentedly through used vinyl. They DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR. Seriously, how pathetic is that? They’re just blindly — LOOKING. For lack of anything else to do. If you don’t know what you walked in for, how do you know when you’re supposed to walk out??
Tangent. Sorry. I was talking about how I am often moved by even ham-fisted grandeur. There is plenty of it to be found in the Arcade Fire’s music, particularly in Win Butler’s lyrics, which don’t reward close inspection, and on Neon Bible, their latest album, which piles on the chimes and organs and quavering strings. However, I saw them live twice this year, and I am still with them. They belong to a select group of messianic rock bands often ridiculed for their cornball optimism and plaintive earnestness, a pantheon that includes such big fat targets such as U2, Pearl Jam, and “Soft Bulletin”-era Flaming Lips. IT’s a thin line between “The Soft Bulletin” and “At War With the Mystics,” between the soaring, unifying statement and the crass, vulgar overstatement, but from my vantage point, the Arcade Fire are still operating on the right side of things.
I have no idea if this makes sense. But I’m trying to BLOG HERE. JUST CRACK YER KNUCKLES AND HIT “PUBLISH.”
Peace and love,