Idle Chatter :: Arcade Fire :: Black Mirror

Pat and I both being big fans of workday procrastination had a long talk about the new Arcade Fire album (out tomorrow) on Friday and decided that instead of each of us reviewing it, we would just post the conversation. So please enjoy our banter, musical snobbery, and us trying to guess what Pitchfork would give them album. (We were both wrong. And why don't you listen to some of the new Arcade Fire while you read?

Arcade Fire Black Mirror

tug: Dude. This new Arcade Fire is a little disappointing.
pat: how so?
tug: I don't know. Can't put my finger on it. The string arrangements aren't as good as when Owen Pallet was doing them. And I've heard live versions of most of these songs, and the album versions just sound completely different than what I expected from the live recordings.
pat: fair enough.
tug: Are you digging it?
tug: I mean, ‘No Cars Go’ comes the closest to what I wanted it to be, but it's still not quite there.
pat: honestly, i don't enjoy it as much as i did Funerals.
tug: OK, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who thought that.
pat: but i still think it's good.
pat: i think there are some remarkable moments on Black Mirror and while i was married to the sound of "no cars go" from a bootleg i heard, i'm very pleased with how it sounds now.
pat: i think if people are expecting Funerals, part two, they'll be monumentally disappointed.
tug: Yeah, it's definitely missing something from Funerals. Do you think it's just because Pallet's gone? There's got to be more to it than that.
pat: production-wise, it seems a lot more clamored.
tug: Yeah. Not as 'we did this in our house!'
pat: as much as there was going on in Funerals, there seems to be twice as much going on now.
tug: Yeah, they've added all these new musicians, and while I bet it makes the live shows incredible, it just sounds like the guy who mixed it had no idea what to do with it all.
pat: i think that's definitely part of it. the old saying is, "too many cooks spoil the broth." i think what's working in the arcade fire's favor, though, is that they're trying to grow. there are a lot of darker songs here.
tug: Really dark stuff. But yet, it's kind of a really good time.
pat: it is. it's a strange kind of good time, like the one you get from getting really high and watching a spaced-out science fiction movie.
tug: Yeah, like when I used to relish in the wallowing darkness of an Elliot Smith album.
pat: indeed.
pat: i can't help but wonder if there's not going to be a little bit of a backlash with this record, though. and, moreover, i wonder how they'll approach the next album.
tug: Of course. Ooh. Let's do our own Pitchfork predictions.
pat: man. that's a tough one.
tug: I'm thinking they give it a 7.9.
pat: they're either really going to love it or really going to hate it.
tug: I wonder what they gave Funerals.
pat: 9.7
tug: Wow. Your google is faster than my google. I bow to your google.
pat: it's interesting, because as much as they jizzed over Funerals, they didn't like the self-titled ep.
tug: Yeah. Which is not very different from Funerals.
pat: i wonder if pitchfork will be able to evaluate it as an entirely different entity. because it is. it's totally different than Funerals. it's ironically sparser, yet more calamitously orchestrated. it's darker, but somehow more hopeful.
tug: And those organs are crazy!
pat: i think pitchfork will stick it in the low-to-mid sevens. i'm guessing 7.3.
tug: Really, I don't know if it's any more or less hopeful.
pat: there's a sense that i get about it that it is.
tug: The chance for backlash is pretty huge here, though. Think about it. These guys sold out five shows in NYC in something like five minutes. They are now huge.
pat: they are. and indie kids hate anything huge.
tug: Yep. I mean, I'm kicking myself for not seeing them earlier 'cause now I don't want to see them even though I'm sure it's amazing, but I would be worried that a bunch of frat boys would be in the audience or something. "Hey, man! Play 'Crown of Love!' WHOOOO!"
pat: i think your average vaguely indie-minded asshole will really only like "black mirror" and "the well and the lighthouse," which is the most Funerals-esque song among the lot.
tug: 'Intervention' is a lot like the first album too.
pat: i'm a big fan of the spookiness of the quieter songs like "windowsill" and "my body is a cage" for the production.
tug: 'Keep the Car Running' may work the best for my money.
pat: i like the instrumentation on "keep the car running."
tug: Yeah. It switches gears a couple times, which is one of my favorite things that Arcade Fire does.
pat: well then i guess i'd think you'd like it more than i think you do. because the whole record's one gearshift after another.
tug: That's true. I dunno. I'm listening to it now, and I'm enjoying it more than all the previous listens.
pat: maybe it's one of those records that just needs to grow on people.
tug: Possibly.
pat: ultimately, those are the most rewarding albums. Funerals had a quality that instantly jumped out at you. i don't think neon bible shares that.
tug: Definitely, the opposite you get is, for instance, Arctic Monkeys. Love the first listen, like it less and less until hate forms.
pat: precisely.
tug: Yeah, I remember listening to Funerals for the first time. I had a little flip out about it.
pat: right. and i don't think neon bible isn't as visceral. it's a little slow-burning. almost like a dour, more experimental Nebraska.
tug: Sophomore albums are hard, man. Do you stick to what made the first one a hit, or do you push forward? And I think they found a nice mix of both here.
pat: i'm much more inclined to fault a band that retreads its debut. which is why i ultimately can't fault the arcade fire here.
tug: Nah, it's definitely different. 'Black Wave Bad Vibrations' sounds nothing like the first album. It hardly sounds like Arcade Fire. It's all new wave-y.
pat: exactly. and while it might not be as likable as Funerals — and i don't think it is — it demands to be appreciated for what it is.
tug: Sure. I think it's a step forward for them, and it's given them lots of great stuff for their live shows especially.
pat: agreed.
tug: I dig it. I am not immediately falling in love with it like Funerals, and I doubt I'll ever love it as much as Funerals. But it stands on it's own as a really good album.
pat: and that's my point to a t.
tug: Glad to see we agree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth: I've not even heard the new record and I'm tired of it. With all this talk these days about how "important" The Arcade Fire is supposed to be, I want nothing to do with it until I can cut through the heap of hype and hear it for myself.

Why does a good band who makes a good record have to be "important?" Where's the fun in that? Taxes are important. School is important. That stuff isn't fun. Can't we spare music the same burden?

Besides, calling it "important" places a sort of pressure onto the listener whereby anything but widespread acceptance might be an inferred simple- or close-mindedness. There's just something inherently wrong about that.

I don't hate The Arcade Fire. I wouldn't call my position one of backlash, either, because I don't hate them for being popular. It's just so hard in the realm of music blogs and dot-com critics to have something great come along without there being some pressure to get on board or risk being labeled out of touch or a contrarian. I don't know when, exactly, it happened, but I want to say it got worse after The Strokes released Is This It?

No matter. It can be so discouraging and poisonous.