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Click of the Light / Start of the Dream
On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.
Working for the Church while your life falls apart.
Singin' hallelujah with the fear in your heart.
—Arcade Fire, "Intervention," Neon Bible
I have friends with whom I share a perfectly silly, carefully cultivated, pop music snobbery. I say "silly," but we're true believers. And we're completely serious when we speak of Tom Waits or U2 shaping the way we view the world, informing our decisions, and generally revolutionizing our imaginations. So it was a very big deal when three of them (Gar, Todd, and Geoff) agreed behind my back that a band called Arcade Fire had accomplished—with their first full-length album, Funeral (2004)—something on par with OK Computer, Blonde on Blonde, and Joshua Tree; something comparably culturally crucial. I hadn't heard it yet, but I'd heard it touted by folks unduly swayed (to my mind) by whatever Pitchfork christens (not that Pitchforkmedia isn't often wonderful), and I was prepared mentally to take them all on by way of a one-versus-three intervention if they'd lost their minds and there was nothing but hype-driven, bandwagonesque folly behind their very bold talk. As a ministry unto the as-yet-ungospelled me, Gar was kind enough to leave a copy of Funeral on my front porch.
And Arcade Fire had me at Hello. The music felt somehow medieval and fresh and urgent all at once, with strings and electric guitar, marching band, minstrel/gypsy/ troubadour fare coming out of a tavern full of clear-eyed, optimistic, coed worker priests. It felt wise and young and in unself-conscious continuity with some long forgotten, undeniably authoritative, ancient broadcast, a dusty, old, strong-as-an-oak culture. They're very much a communal activity (sometimes with as many as 10 people on stage), but they appear to be led by a married couple, Texas-born Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Montreal, coming at us like a good-news, deadpan circus.