Albums of the Aughts: The Arcade Fire’s Funeral

While driving back to my hometown — whether it be from school, vacation or any other form of trip — there is a point at which I always venture off of I-74 and begin to coast through smaller, and in my opinion much more enjoyable, rural Illinoisan roads. These are stretches of pavement in which the land around you doesn’t change, you can see clouds coming from miles and miles away and where each one-bar, one-church town you pass through is as quaint and as peaceful as the last. It is during this final half hour or so of the drive that — after shamelessly pumping my fist to “The Boys are Back in Town,” — I almost religiously put on The Arcade Fire’s Funeral, allowing the album to fill my head with images and memories of old places and friends, some of whom have “set out for a great adventure,” and some that have stayed put and stayed the same. When I hear Winn Butler say that “time keeps creepin’ through the neighborhood, killing old folks wakin’ up babies just like we knew it would,” I wonder about my old haunts and how they may have changed since I’ve been gone. By the time I get through the anthemic “Rebellion (Lies)” and am pulling into my driveway, I’m downright ecstatic to see the people I’ve missed and walk along the same streets I grew up on.
I think for most of us, Funeral is about our homes and childhood, but even more than that, it is about the emotions we had while growing up. While listening to Funeral, one can glimpse the world through the naïve, piercingly honest eyes of youth once again. In a slow building wave of piano and whispers, drums and shouts, opening track “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” washes over and reminds us of our oldest, purest impressions of the world, before we traded them for ideas that were more realistic, more functional. “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” is a dreamlike, bell-adorned riot that begins mysteriously enough with lyrically vague images of children and darkness, but becomes progressively more and more desperate with lines like “Kids are dyin’ in the snow, look at them go, look at them go!” Finally, the peak is reached on “Wake Up,” with its lyrical focus on children and growing up (surprise). It is an overall more provocative, positive feel and of course those very spirited lines — seemingly childish and yet so moving that you can’t help but shout along like a giddy little kid — “With my lighnin’ bolts a glowin’ I can see where I am goin’.”
If this was the decade for the more emotionally pure, honest album (which I believe it was), than Funeral was without a doubt its pinnacle. Each song flows with feeling and heart that, when first released together in 2004, were like a wake-up call that seemed to have no precedent, a sudden crack of thunder that is hopefully still sending shockwaves amongst us.

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