Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Ready To Start" / Arcade Fire

Okay, so my guest blogger for the summer got sidetracked, and now he's going back to school and I've lost him for the next few months. Nevertheless, I have one thing to thank him for -- he gave me his copy of the new Arcade Fire album The Suburbs, and I'm helplessly -- helplessly, I tell you -- in love with this track.

Mostly, I have to admit, it's that chorus -- the progression of the "if I was" clauses: "If I was scared / I would / If I was bored [later changed to "pure"] / You know I would / If I was yours..." and the pregnant, yearning pause before he concludes "but I'm not." This is just eating at him, that he can't get this girl. Forget that pose of hipster disaffected cool; he wants her. But is he willing to stand on the precipice, risk everything, to get her? Maybe yesterday, but today he's finally ready to move past that. It's a huge step, and this song just vibrates with fear and trembling resolution.

He knows the world is full of risks. There are the businessmen who will drink his blood (notice how craftily they add "like the kids in art school said they would" -- no knee-jerk prejudices here!). He's willing to bow down to the emperor, even though he knows the guy's got no clothes. But he won't pretend he feels alright, even if she knocks on his door; it may be stepping out into the dark, but he's finally got the courage to stand on his own two feet.

Don't you remember that moment -- when you finally realize that the person you've idolized has feet of clay? It's a liberating moment, but scary too. For once, Arcade Fire justifies the Springsteen-like anthemic build-up of their songs; it's simply the sound of a guy mustering his courage to confront a brave new world. The buzzy clutter of sound behind Win Butler's vocals makes supreme sense -- he's still fighting his way past all those hipster-approved attitudes. Now, at last, he's ready to start sounding like himself.

Personally I never liked Arcade Fire's earlier albums; this one has completely turned me around. And I know it's a monster hit (I usually hate the monster hits); I know that the indie world feels betrayed that these guys have gone mainstream. Of course they'll make a ton of money with this record, play the Garden, top the charts. So what? WAKE UP, PEOPLE!! When the music's good, it's good. Why should the "indie" label have to mean "only minimal, underground success"?

This album seems to me like Arcade Fire's coming of age record, the one where they prove they've got the goods. I don't blame them for being scared -- they've got no place to go from here but down.

Still -- you know what? I'm laying my money on these kids.


Uncle E said...

I was totally underwhelmed by the first album, just couldn't fathom why these guys were so popular. So underwhelmed, in fact, that I disn't even give the follow up a chance. Listening to this new album, however, it seems I may have to reevaluate things.

Alex said...

It's hard to separate the hype from the music -- but this stuff is really cool (reminds me of a lot of 80s bands like Ultravox and Alphaville).

Alex said...

By the way, if you haven't seen the Wilderness Downtown interactive video (featuring your childhood home), you've got to check it out -- (yes, it's worth downloading Google Chrome for this).