Hearts made of cement

Arcade Fire recalls the sad sounds of yesteryear

Keri Carlson

The Arcade Fire begins its first album “Funeral” with a charming old piano and a tale of young lovers who escape through tunnels connected to their bedrooms and meet in the middle of town.

But this is not a happy, picturesque vision of childhood fantasy. Because once a dancey punk beat becomes prominent, and the two runaways find happiness with each other, they forget the names of their family members.

Lead singer Win Butler cries in a high-pitched shriek similar to The Cure’s Robert Smith or Bright Eyes’ Connor Oberst, “Sometimes we remember bedrooms/ and our parents’ bedrooms/ and the bedrooms of our friends.” These hazy visions show the remnants of memories in a mind that wants to forget.

“Funeral” gets its name from the loss of family members the band has experienced. The Arcade Fire focuses the album not so much on the sadness of these deaths, but on harsh realities of life and how they only seem to get worse as we grow older. On the song “Wake Up,” Butler cries (which is his dominant singing form), “Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.”

But “Funeral” is not drenched in sadness. As the first song “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” demonstrates, the Arcade Fire holds on to a sense of whimsical romance (which could come from the marriage between Butler and band member Regine Chassagne).”Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” is the most dynamic track on the album. The drums patter a light march as Butler sings of prancing out into the night and swinging from power lines. The album’s most powerful lyrics come when Butler, with reinforcement from the band, sings, “The power’s out in the heart of man/ take it from your heart and put it in your hand.”

“Funeral” never lingers too long in either pain or happiness, or even ambivalence. The Arcade Fire does not need to rely on one emotion to convince you of its sincerity.