ARTS ISSUE: Arcade Fire livens up music scene with anticsPosted on December 5, 2013 | by Kim Hart
When Montreal-based indie rock band Arcade Fire took home the Album of the Year award at the 2011 Grammy Awards for their record “The Suburbs,” an internet-wide period of questioning followed. Twitter was abuzz with people asking “Who are The Suburbs?” because they had never heard of Arcade Fire and mistook the album name for the band name.
Since their humble beginnings, the group has stood out in the music world for their elaborate sound and matching stage presence.
In 2004, Arcade Fire released their first full-length album, “Funeral.” On it, the band proved to be a rising star, and the album included beautiful, empowering music that received nearly unanimous praise from professional critics.
Arcade Fire took a turn for the macabre with 2006’s “Neon Bible,” which featured an experimentation of instruments such as the hurdy gurdy, the mandolin and the pipe organ. This record also marked the beginning of the band’s penchant for strange marketing campaigns, as they released the album’s first single, “Neon Bible,” through a telephone number.
The award-winning “Suburbs” offered a commentary on adolescence and suburban life. The disco-infused “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains” stuck out the most, with layers of synthesizers and vibrant vocals marking another change of pace for the band.
This year’s “Reflektor” is Arcade Fire’s most striking record to date. Its worldwide, graffiti-filled promotion preceded an album that is a far cry from the band’s earlier days, but is still no less enjoyable or magnificent. Listeners just appreciate it in a different way. “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” is one of the record’s highlights, featuring infectious guitar melodies and vocal harmonies. Another standout,“Here Comes the Night Time,” takes a reggae-inspired sound and effortlessly shifts from riotous beats to a groovy flow.
In retrospect, the through line for Arcade Fire’s diverse catalogue is their heavy layering and decadent instrumentation — two things that have brought them success and a loyal following. For their upcoming Reflektor Tour, the band asked attendees to dress formally or in costume. When this annoyed some, who considered the request unnecessary, Arcade Fire responded that the dress code is “not mandatory,” and its sole purpose is to create a “fun carnival” atmosphere.
It is evident that even now, the grandiose six-piece group has no interest in taking themselves too seriously — they’re just in it for the fun.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 5 print edition. Kim Hart is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.