Arcade vs. Fire

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Alternative, Canadian Music, Indie, New Music
Tags: , , ,

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that a musician’s actions can affect the way we listen to their music. Although their personal lives should not affect their professional ones, sometimes it can’t be helped. Ever since Chris Brown decided to beat women without remorse, it’s really hard to support his music. Kanye West’s antics and off-base moronic things he’s said, are just too distracting to take any music he makes seriously. Lorde’s anti-everything attitude is old and tired, and completely disinterested me out of her music. Recently, however, my convictions have been tested, and I find myself at a crossroad. Here’s the story.

Aracde Fire first graced the music scene with their debut album Funeral in 2004. A lot of ears perked up, a lot of critics were blown away. They have a unique sound  with the combination of male and female lead vocals courtesy of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. The flurry of instruments in their catalogue, including accordion, xylophone, glockenspiel and organ, bring their music to another level. Add the right amount of rock, emotion, fun, and humble Canadian charm; what you get is pretty fantastic. Tracks like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” spoke to a lot of people, and started AF’s journey into the music industry.


Everyone had big expectations for their sophomore album, where extra scrutiny is always placed to see if a band is either a one-album wonder, or a serious contender. Once again, AF blew people away with 2007’s Neon Bible. One great tune after another, all sort of creeping up on you. They don’t sound like anthems or tracks that would leave lasting impressions, but they all linger around in your mind. They stick with you in a good way. They are orchestral and moody; lyrically poignant and relevant. It’s songs like the soulful “My Body is a Cage,” and the chilling “Oceans of Noise” that sets these guys apart from other bands. Neon Bible put AF at the top of the indie music scene. Which essentially means they were über famous, but only to a certain crowd of people. Mainstream amidst the minority.


 It wasn’t until their third album, 2010’s The Suburbs, that they seeped their way deeper into all music scenes. It’s a mix of all kinds of sounds, and is a near perfect album from every angle. The indie music scene thought so, as did The Grammys, awarding it Album of the Year. It was a big, huge deal because the crossover from indie superstars to mainstream Grammy-level superstar is supremely difficult and incredibly rare. Songs like “We Used to Wait” and “Ready to Start” were infectious from the minute they were released. Catchy, but not in an unpleasant Taylor Swift kind of way. Earworms welcomed with open arms. Winning the most coveted award at the Grammys was a big day for AF. But a concerning one too.


It’s not that AF didn’t deserve the Grammy win, but now they were launched into a completely different stratosphere. Generally speaking, with increased popularity, comes a change in attitude. The bigger a band gets, the more obnoxious they tend to become. Whether it’s an ego thing, or a coping mechanism for all the new found fame, whatever the reason. A year after releasing The Suburbs (and six months after the Grammy win,) the band re-released a deluxe version of the album, including bonus tracks, and a DVD consisting of a 30-minute short film directed by Spike Jonze, entitled Scenes from the Suburbs; plus a documentary called Behind the Scenes from the Suburbs. And of course an 80-page booklet of lyrics and photos taken during the making of the mini-movie. I know a lot of musicians release bonus material, so it’s not like this is completely outrageous. It’s just pretty damn narcissistic.


By the time they were ready to release their fourth album, 2013’s Reflektor, I had pretty well decided to not get involved with them anymore. Leading up to its release, they started a cryptic campaign where a symbol with the word “Reflektor”, was posted on city walls all over the world, in a graffiti-like way. All of a sudden, they thought enough people in the world cared enough about them to be intrigued by these vague logos (as if the people of the world had nothing better to do.) They even created a giant mural in Manhattan confirming that was going to be the name of their next album, and posted a release date. The only word that comes to mind is megalomaniac. I mean, come on. Get over yourselves already. I was glad I opted not to participate in the hoopla surrounding the album, and I went on my merry way.



When they embarked on the Reflektor Tour, I had no intention of attending. Again, I was pleased with my decision, especially when I heard they insisted that attendees either dress in costume or in formal attire otherwise they will not be allowed to enter their show. Who exactly do they think they are? It’s like they live in their own world; an exclusive and artsy one, where they can’t function at the same level as “regular” people. They became pretentious. Annoying. Obnoxious. So obvious they needed to be written off.

So here’s the problem: their music is so damn good, I can’t write it off. I can’t stop listening. When “Here Comes the Night Time” comes on the radio, my hips move; I wanna jig, I wanna dance, I’m automatically in a good mood. I’m still very aware of their self-obsessiveness, but I’m also very aware of their incredible music. Now some of you reading this may not quite fully understand why this is such a predicament. I feel like I’ve been defeated; like my moral code on what’s acceptable and what isn’t is up for debate. They embody so many things I cannot stand, yet I can’t get enough of their music. For the first time ever, I can’t separate the two. They’re pulling me in with their artistry, but dragging me out with their pomposity. And I’m torn.


  1. […] already admitted this year that Arcade Fire confuses me. They make wonderful music that makes everything sparkle, […]

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