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Music: Arcade Fire

"You can't watch your own image and also look yourself in the eye."
Arcade Fire, "Black Mirror"

(The) Arcade Fire are a Canadian indie rock band formed in Montreal in 2001-02 by Texan ex-pat Win Butler (then a student at Concordia University in Montreal) and his Haitian-Quebecois then-girlfriend (now wife) Regine Chassagne (then a student at crosstown rival McGill University). Although their numbers can swell to ten on tour, the core band consists of seven musicians (most multi-instrumentalists): Butler (lead vocals, guitar) Chassagne (drums, accordion, vocals, everything), Richard Reed Parry (guitar, everything), Jeremy Gara (drums), Tim Kingsbury (bass), Win's brother Will Butler (keyboards, synth) and violinist Sarah Neufeld.

Since the release of their debut album Funeral in 2004, the band has emerged as one of the most prominent indie rock outfits this side of 2000, garnering near-unanimous critical favour, and acquiring a reputation for dynamic live shows as well as several famous fans. Bono and David Byrne have both sung their praises, and they've performed live with David Bowie, U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Arcade Fire are known for changing their sound between albums and once even between an EP and album, which always splits their fanbase. Despite this, their commercial success continues to increase.

The band's third album, The Suburbs was awarded the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, which many music writers claim is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the band, their label Merge Records, and independent music as a whole.

Discography:
  • Arcade Fire (EP recorded in 2003 and released commercially in 2005)
  • Funeral (2004)
  • Neon Bible (2007)
  • The Suburbs (2010, 2011)
  • Reflektor (2013)

They have also been doing some other stuff:
  • While not an official AF release, Win, Regine and band associate Owen Pallett recorded music for Richard Kelly's The Box (2009)
  • They recorded a track, "Abraham's Daughter", for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games movie. Panem's National Anthem, "The Horn of Plenty" was also composed by them.
  • The score for Spike Jonze's Her.


Tropes associated with Arcade Fire include:

  • After the End: "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)".
  • Album Title Drop: Even discounting the two title tracks, The Suburbs is full of this.
    • To be fair, the album's setting does take place in the suburbs, so it's not a excuse to drop the title of it repeatedly.
    • While the band formed in Canada, Win Butler and his brother and bandmate William were born and raised in the suburbs note  of Houston, Texas (particularly The Woodlands). Regine Chassagne, on the other hand, was born and raised in the suburbs of Montréal.
  • An Aesop: "The Well and the Lighthouse" is based off of one of Aesop's fables.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: "Crown of Love."
  • Arc Words: "The kids" throughout the band's works, "the neighborhood/neighbors" in Funeral, "the suburbs" in, well, The Suburbs.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Rebellion (Lies)," "Intervention," "No Cars Go," "Wake Up."
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Just try and count how many times some variation on the phrase "the kids" appear. Taken Up to Eleven with The Suburbs.
  • Band of Relatives: Type 1. Win and Will Butler, of course. Also, Win and Regine are married.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The French lyrics. Since they formed in Quebec, and Regine hails from (and sings about) Haiti, it would probably be unwise to call it gratuitous.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "In the Backseat" is this for Funeral. It comes at the end of an album that features childhood as a recurring theme, and "In the Backseat" is about growing up.
    • "My Body is a Cage" is a more triumphant but still bittersweet finale for Neon Bible.
    • "The Suburbs (Continued)" (the last song on The Suburbs) continues the themes of "In the Backseat" in a more direct way:
    If I could have it back
    All the time that I wasted
    I'd only waste it again
    I'd waste it again, again, again.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Rebellion (Lies)"
  • Call Back: The songs from The Suburbs have a lot of these, connecting the characters and settings of each song to another. There's even a call back to Neon Bible: In "(Antichrist Television Blues)" (from the latter album), the narrator prays to God for a child because "I wanna put it up on the TV screen." Later, in the title track of "The Suburbs," the narrator prays to God for a child, but for a very different reason ("I wanna show her some beauty before all this damage is done").
    • "The Suburbs" (and the album of the same name) opens with "In the Suburbs I learned to drive/and you told me we'd never survive/grab your mother's keys, we're leaving." These lines allude to the last song on Funeral (In The Backseat - "Alice died, in the night; I've been learning to drive, my whole life") and are themselves echoed more directly in the much bleaker "Suburban War."
    • In turn, the phrase "This town is so strange/they built it to change" appears in "Suburban War" and is then referred to on the even darker track "Sprawl I (Flatland)."
    • "Deep Blue" contains the line "a song from the speaker of a passing car/born from a dying star." A similar, but darker line appears in "Suburban War" as "The cities we live in could be distant stars/and I search for you in every passing car"
    • "Wasted Hours" and "Month of May" both contain the line "first they built the road/and then they built the town/and that's why we're still driving around."
    • The line "it makes me feel like something's wrong with me" in "Porno" echoes "Modern Man"'s "it makes me feel like... something don't feel right..."
    • "Windowsill" features the line "You can't forgive what you can't forget". Fastforward to the final track, "My Body Is A Cage", and it's flipped to "just because you've forgotten that doesn't mean you're forgiven".
    • "Normal Person"'s bridge is the outro of "We Exist."
  • Childless Dystopia: Used as a metaphor in "City With No Children".
  • Concept Album: All of their albums have at least shades of this: Funeral focuses on aging, loss, and community; Neon Bible is darker and fixates on the apocalypse and religion, with television and the ocean also used as motifs; and you get one guess as to what The Suburbs is about.
  • Costume Porn: Men in the band tend to look like 19th century farmers. Women wear ball gowns and opera gloves that seem to be a similar vintage. They've more or less abandoned this look recently for a modern semi-formal look while promoting the The Suburbs.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Alluded to briefly in "Crown of Love."
  • Darker and Edgier: Downplayed but still present with Neon Bible, which has a decidedly darker and more serious tone than the band's other albums.
  • Dark Reprise: "Suburban War" for "The Suburbs."
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: Not exactly, but all three albums have perhaps their most epic songs as the penultimate tracks: "Rebellion (Lies)" on Funeral, "No Cars Go" from Neon Bible, and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" off The Suburbs.
    • Weirdly, however, the vinyl version and only the vinyl version of The Suburbs does away with this, as the second-to-last track is not "Sprawl II," but the more mournful "Suburban War."
    • Reflektor carries on this tradition, with the climactic "Afterlife" being the penultimate track. Disc 1 averts this- "Joan of Arc" is the last track, rather than the second-to-last.
  • Every Episode Ending: At almost every show, (spoilered for those who wish to keep their live shows a surprise): Rebellion (Lies) serves as the finale of the main show. The encore usually ends with "Intervention" or "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)."
  • Everything Is an Instrument: In this famous elevator version of "Neon Bible", Richard Reed Parry plays a magazine.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: "Reflektor" may be this trope's crowning moment.
  • Eye Scream: "Crown of Love" has a line about the narrator carving the name of the girl he loves across his eyelids. It's metaphorical, but it's still a gruesome image and adds to the bleak tone of the song.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Haiti" into "Rebellion (Lies)" on Funeral.
    • Also, a most of the songs on The Suburbs.
    • An unusual example with "Joan of Arc" and "Here Comes the Night Time II"- there's some quiet feedback and tape noise that allows them to segue into each other if played back-to-back, but they're on separate discs.
  • Foreshadowing: On Funeral, Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) mildly foreshadows Rebellion (Lies): "Is it a dream? Is it a lie? I think I'll let you decide".
  • Growing Up Sucks: "In the Backseat."
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: One for The Suburbs was released with an extended version of "Wasted Hours" (subtitled "A Life We Can Live"), two new tracks ("Culture War" and "Speaking in Tongues", the latter featuring David Byrne), a DVD including Spike Jonze's Scenes from the Suburbs film and extras, and a booklet.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "Sprawl I (Flatland)"
  • Love at First Note: Win first met Regine when she was singing jazz at an art gallery. Taking this trope Up to Eleven, they wrote a song together ("Headlights Look Like Diamonds") on their very first date, and said song has remained a fan favourite.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Crown of Love," "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations," "Deep Blue."note 
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Almost all of their songs sound ecstatically joyful on the surface, but many have darker undertones, none more jarring than "Intervention":
    Every spark of friendship and love
    Will die without a home
    Hear the soldier groan
    We'll go at it alone
  • Meaningful Echo: Lots and lots of it on The Suburbs.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "The Suburbs (Continued)" is the band's shortest song.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally level 2-3.
    • Reflektor brings the level considerably higher, with some tracks like "Normal Person" going as high as a 5.
  • Mormonism: Win and Will Butler were raised Mormon. They're no longer engaged members of the Church, but a subtle ear can detect some influences.
  • The Movie: Scenes From The Suburbs is one for...The Suburbs, with Spike Jonze directing.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: As eclectic as you'd expect a rock band with an accordionist (Regine) and string section to be. Their live shows have been described as like "a Clash concert hijacked by the Cirque du Soleil."
  • New Sound Album: Reflektor incorporates, of all things, Disco and Glam Rock.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Much of The Suburbs.
  • Pop-Star Composer: In addition to their contributions to The Hunger Games, they also scored Spike Jonze's Her. Will Butler and frequent collaborator Owen Pallett have received an Academy Award nomination for the score.
  • Precision F-Strike: Or S strike, rather, in "Porno," one of the only profanities on Reflektor: "And boys, they learn some selfish shit..."
  • Pun-Based Title: The title of "Old Flame", from the Arcade Fire EP seems to refer to an old flame in the the romantic sense, but the context doubles in the lines 'your eyes are fluttering, such pretty wings/a moth flying into the same old flame again.'
  • Rearrange the Song: "The song" in this case being "No Cars Go," a tune from their self-titled EP. They did a pretty good job with it, too.
  • Religion Rant Song: "Intervention," "Neon Bible," and "(Antichrist Television Blues)" are all Type 3s, in that they don't attack God or the idea of God, but are instead about the different ways in which religion is misused by many (as an excuse to go to war, as a way to gain money, and as a justification for being the worst type of Stage Dad, respectively).
    • The Protest Song "Here Comes the Night Time" takes on, among other things, missionaries' lack of understanding for those they're preaching to.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Win Butler smashed his guitar on SNL after one of the strings broke mid-song.
    • His brother Will can be seen doing this in several performances, with his preferred victims being drums.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Quite a few of their songs, especially those from Neon Bible. Hell, just listen to Well and the Lighthouse or this little masterpiece !
  • Self-Titled Album: The Arcade Fire EP, natch.
  • Snow Means Death: "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)": "Kids are dying out in the snow/Look at 'em go, look at 'em go!"
    • It's worth nothing that the song was inspired by Régine Chassagne's experience in Montreal during the North American ice storm of 1998, which knocked out power in the city for over a week and led to several deaths.
    • Snow Means Love: "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)": "And if the snow/buries my, my neighborhood/and if my parents are crying/then I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours."
  • Something Blues: Of the "(Antichrist Television)" variety.
  • Stage Dad: "(Antichrist Television Blues)" The track is rumored to have been originally titled "Joe Simpson (Antichrist Television Blues)", meant as a direct attack at the father of Jessica Simpson and his exploitation of his daughter's sexuality while stating that he's a very religious man.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Regine has a high, childlike voice whereas Win's is comparatively deep. The contrast is apparent on the more duet-ish songs, notably "The Well and the Lighthouse" and the bridge of "No Cars Go".
  • Spiritual Successor: Arguably, The Suburbs to Funeral. If nothing else, it continues the theme of neighborhoods. It also has two "suites" entitled "Half Light" and "Sprawl" organized in a way reminiscent of the first album's "Neighborhood" section.
    • In fact, if listened to directly after Funeral, a Call Back can immediately be noticed, regarding the metaphor of "learning to drive" as symbolic of growing up featuring both in the last song of Funeral (In The Backseat) and in the eponymous first song of The Suburbs. The Suburbs could subjectively be regarded as a looking-backwards perspective on some of the ideas that Funeral explored from the perspective of a younger in-the-moment observer- the former is about being a teenager and is seen through the eyes of an adult, while the latter is about adulthood and death through the eyes of a teenager.
    • Reflektor picks up on the themes of religion and technology in Neon Bible, and appropriately expands on its bombast.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Touched on in (what else?) The Suburbs.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Regine Chassagne sings lead for around two songs on each album.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Largely averted. Their songs tend to portray teens in a sympathetic light.
    • Some songs on The Suburbs, most notably "Rococo" and "Month of May", do include a few Take Thats at "the kids." Still a long way from portraying them as monsters, though.
      • "Rococo" is basically all about the kids in today's world who were raised to be cynical and proud, trying to impress people with their large vocabulary and hating everything about popular culture. In other words, hipsters. In other other words, some of the people who listen to Arcade Fire.
      • Although to be fair, it's not about all teens, just certain groups.
      • Somehow the hipsters that it was aimed at ate it right on up without realizing that the track was aimed specifically at them. No one knows if it's just that they're socially smart, or they just dodge all of these by sheer coincidence.
      • Which actually proves that the song was spot on, when you think about it...
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Rebellion (Lies)".
  • Un-Person: From "Intervention:" "And when you finally disappear, they'll say you were never here."
  • Vocal Tag Team: Of the song-by-song basis variety (both Win Butler and Regine Chassagne have lead vocals, although he has many more), verse-by-verse basis variety ("Headlights Look Like Diamonds, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations"), and the duet/harmonizing variety ("Half Light I", "The Suburbs (Continued)".
  • Wham Line: From "(Antichrist Television Blues)": "I'm through being cute/I'm through being nice/Oh tell me Lord/Am I the Antichrist?"
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Reflektor.


If I could have it back... all the time that I wasted, I'd only waste it again, and again, and again...


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alternative title(s): Arcade Fire
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