Ready to Start by Arcade Fire. This the most talented band in the world. I’m prone to hyperbole, forgive me. But it’s the truth. This song is great. This album, The Suburbs, is a wonder. I don’t think I’ve ever once implored you to buy (acquire) a whole album, but this is me doing just that. You can’t fully experience the possibilities of each song without hearing their part in the whole. It’s sprawling and intimate portrait of life in the (as you might have guessed) Suburbs. The lead singer, Win Butler, was raised in the suburbs of Houston. It bounces around from an almost traditional Bakersfield sound to quasi-punk to an ABBA sounding dance track to weaving in and out of the grandiose multi-instrumentalist indie/pop shit that just makes my ears feel good and that Arcade Fire executes with an almost fierce sense of urgency. They’ve done this on every album. (N.B. when WD was a wee-baby and not the 41 (or so) week old monster it is now, we ranked in our opinion the top albums of 2000-2009, Arcade Fire’s Funeral was number one.) Lyrically, The Suburbs alternates between passively and in your face telling a story about youth lost and the sprawl of The Suburbs both as a metaphor for the disease-like growth of the creepy corporate (a Chili’s on every corner) banalities of the world and for the sprawl of The Suburbs when it’s the place you live, how it can invade your every thought if you allow it. I’ve had it on repeat since Tuesday morning and I don’t see it changing. Highest recommendation.
Wow, was that the closest I’ve ever come to actual rock criticism?
Now here’s the deal. Fuck Arcade Fire. As I was in the midst of my, almost immediate, obsession with them, I read an article about them in Rolling Stone. I remember nothing of said article other than how it ended. The author was in a limo (or just a car. In my mind it’s a limo) with Win Butler having conducted or in the midst of what was essentially a puff piece about Arcade Fire as the saviors of indie-rock. And, according to the author, Butler takes a call on his cell phone. The call ends and he tells the author he must wrap things up. The author responds with something like “ok, a couple more, you can drop me off at _______.” To which Butler says “no we’re finished” and forces (not physically) the author to get out of the limo in the middle of whatever city they’re in and find his own way home. What kind of asshole does that? It dented me. But then I reasoned the entire thing was probably taken out of context (which is a strongly overused excuse these days). Then I read this fully in the midst of my (far too long coming) Flaming Lips obsession and I was “Don’t fuck with The Flaming Lips.” Suddenly I realized the starkest of contrasts between two bands I loved. The Lips took photos like this and this. Arcade Fire took pictures like this and this. I had drawn battle lines. The Flaming Lips are our band. Win Butler grew up in the suburbs of Houston, but really went to Exeter, the most prestigious prep school in America and learned to ply his craft. Wayne Coyne worked at Long John Silvers on NW 23rd in Oklahoma City. Then he made probably the best album of the 90s. So please Win Butler take your tortured artist integrity and shove it up your ass.
I understand now that’s the easy way out, to become entirely put-off by their (perhaps) pretentious ass shit. I understand that whatever differences I constructed between the bands are, if not negligible, not as stark as I want them to be. Then I realized why. I wanted Arcade Fire to be assholes because they are far more talented, not just than me, but than probably everyone else that makes this type of (getting queazy) art. Then, I just felt like an asshole.
When I first heard Ready to Start this lyric immediately captured me (and for more reasons than it being the first words of the song): “business men, they drink my blood / like the kids in art school said they would.” This line may encapsulate my entire opinion of Arcade Fire. It’s brilliant. Brilliant in what they are trying to get across in the song and in the album. But really? The business men drink your blood? Don’t they also pay for your private jet and limo to kick writers out of? Oh and I hate it for you that the kids in your elite-ivy-league-prep school picked on you. It must have been so tough. I bet you would have done much better going to NW Classen with Wayne in the 70s. It just wears me out, those….punks. (deep breath) So here’s the deal. It’s all too much for me to concern myself with. I am going to let Arcade Fire be. I’m going to savor this album at least as much if not more than I did the previous two. I’m not going to get caught up in whatever cognitive dissonance-cum-schadenfraudian-it’s-probably-just-jealosy disorder I have to want these guys to be assholes because they are so unbelievably talented. I am going to let none of it trouble me any longer. Then, I will go see the Lips on New Year’s Eve in my beloved Oklahoma City and hope for more of this. And I want you all to come with me. Enjoy.