Reflektions

Arcade Fire’s newest album, “Reflektor” is released on October 29. What is the term the music industry likes to use? Dropped? It’s gonna drop people! Watch out. So if you were a musician, could you refer to your body of work as your droppings? Does anyone know where that term came from? Anyone? I blame the rap world. (I don’t even know what that means.)

But that’s not why you dialed in today, is it? No. You’re here for the latest droppings from Mountains Beyond Mountains. A lot going on in the editorial offices this week. Fort Building! Late nights! Workshops on how to respect diversity. (A side note: maybe the instructor shouldn’t have kept using the term “low man on the totem pole” when describing something, right. Racist!)

But back to Arcade Fire. (Or is it The Arcade Fire.) Oh life, so full of ambiguity!

This is a perfect time to link to that old chestnut, the “Who is Arcade Fire?” tumblr account that gathered up our collective ignorance after they won the Grammy for Best Album way back in 2011. I know it’s old, but it’s still kinda makes me smile, IF ONLY BECAUSE I KNEW WHO ARCADE FIRE WAS THEN AND I FELT A LITTLE SMUG. (not to be confused with SMAUG, in theatres at Christmas, motherfuckers! I am told it is pronounced SMOOOOAUUGGG, so make sure you get it right, lest you look like a dummy.)

I knew who Arcade Fire, but just barely. I love their song “Month of May” off of The Suburbs because they talk about “2009, 2010, I want to make a record of how I felt then.” because when I think of Arcade Fire, I think of 2009, 2010 and what was going on in our lives. A lot of changes in that period: we successfully adopted our baby girl, we became friends with a group of new people, my wife changed jobs after coming off maternity leave, and I finally joined the digital age and got an iPod. In a weird way, each of those events had a hand in making me into an Arcade Fire fan, and so when I listen to Arcade Fire in general and The Suburbs in particular, I am taken back to the summer of 2010 when The Suburbs was released. (I can’t quite bring myself to say “dropped”, I’m sorry).

Before that time, I was vaguely aware of who Arcade Fire was. I knew (thought) that they were Canadian, but if I had to say from where, I would have said Ottawa, which would have been wrong. I knew that they opened for U2 on the Vertigo Tour in 2005 and almost got a chance to see them but instead we got some forgettable band called “Dashboard Confessional” in Milwaukee that year. (Apologies to any Dashboard Confessional fans out there. Why do I say such hurtful things?) The only song I knew of theirs was “Rebellion (Lies)” from their first album, probably due to osmosis from heavy radio rotation.

So when the new Arcade Fire album was released, I was surprised at the buzz I felt coming off of people I knew who were fans of the band. In fact, I remember one friend going to a couple of different record stores to actually buy the physical album so that she could listen to it in the car ride out my in-law’s cottage. I was happy for them, but didn’t actually pay much attention to any of it. I played around with the interactive video for “We used to wait” where you can upload of picture of your childhood home from Google Street view and then it incorporates it into the video, but I was using our ancient iMac and it didn’t seem to work properly so I took people’s word that it was cool. I did borrow their second album, Neon Bible from the library just to see what the fuss was all about, and I lightly listened to it, noting that “Intervention”, “No Cars Go” and “Keep the Car Running” were standouts for me on first listen.

That September, Arcade Fire was scheduled to play a concert in our city. I was asked if I wanted to go and I said, “No thanks.” because (and this is the geekiest excuse ever), it fell on choir night (but also because, like I said before, I didn’t really know them), and that was fine.

But then a couple of weeks before the concert, I was asked again because there was an extra ticket purchased and I thought, “Why the hell not?” and said I’d go. I felt like I needed to bone up on the band and cram three albums’ worth of material into my headspace in 14 days. I asked around which songs were people’s favourites, and it was really difficult to get a consensus, but I sort of get it. Being a huge U2 fan, I have my favourites, but to actually choose one or two songs to represent them at the expense of others? Pretty difficult. I focused instead on listening to the new album, reasoning that they will probably play a good number of songs off of it. I tried my best to be “ready to start” but I’m not sure anything would have prepared me for that night. (see what I did there?)

A night or two before the show, I was called again, asking if I wanted to have a floor ticket instead of being up in the stands (apparently someone who had a floor ticket decided that they would have preferred sitting). I was worried it was going to be more money, and I wasn’t prepared to pay more for a band I barely knew, but when it turned out the tickets were the same price, I jumped at the chance! A  floor ticket! I had never stood on the floor before for a concert. I had floor seats when there were actual seats, but this would be a new experience for me.

So the night of the concert came, and not only did I have access to the floor, my friends offered to pick up me. (My wife had to work that night, and still regrets to this day that she missed the concert. She too was not a fan, but has subsequently become as big an admirer as me. I don’t remember what we did with our daughter. There must have been a babysitter involved at some point.) I felt like I was a concert winner. Floor ticket! Chauffeur service! I half expected to arrive and be ushered backstage for a meet and greet.

It would be weird to review a concert three years after the fact, but the reality is that the night remains for me to be one of those really special, memorable nights for many reasons, not the least of which was to experience a wonderful concert with the most amazing vantage point in the whole arena. We were pretty much in the center a few people back from the stage, so when the band came on (all 17 of them or whatever) they completed filled our line of vision. It was like watching a 3D IMAX movie but without the glasses. I immediately got into what the lead singer Win Butler was all about, and I pretty much instantly fell in love with his wife, Regine, in everything she was doing on stage. It’s no coincidence that when I started this blog a few months later, I would take as it’s title an Arcade Fire song sung by her. And the opening band Calexico, was perfect too. I knew more of them than I actually did of Arcade Fire going in. (I had a couple of their CDs in the ol’ iPod). During their set, Calexico played a cover of Love’s song “Alone Again Or” which was featured in Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” and I mistakenly thought that Calexico was on the “Bottle Rocket” soundtrack for a while after that. I have since bought Love’s album Forever Changes that has the original version. At one point during Arcade Fire’s set, the horn section from Calexico came out to perform “Ocean of Noise”, which was so cool because Calexico actually recorded the original version for their Funeral album. Maybe Arcade Fire will trot out David Bowie for Reflektor in their upcoming tour?

It was a cool rainy night, and I had my MEC windbreaker on over my t shirt and decided to take it off and tie it around my waist instead of trying to hold on to it. This worked out okay for the first little while, but I felt the arms of the jacket loosening no matter how many times I tried to tighten it, at one point the jacket fell down around my ankles. I wasn’t about to bend over “mid song” and try to tie it up again, so I left it until there was an appropriate break. That break came a couple of songs later between encores. I had just retied the jacket around my waist when I got pushed hard from behind. It wasn’t the person doing the pushing’s fault, he was just riding the wave of a surge of people trying to get as close as possible for the finale. If my jacket had still been around my ankles, I surely would have tripped and fallen to the concrete floor with the possibility of getting trampled in the process. As it was, I just stumbled a couple of steps ahead, and without thinking, turned around and pushed as hard as I could back and the surge pulsed to another part of the floor. I was moshing, people! A minute or so later, this dude with muppety hair came bouncing in to our “personal space” and threatened to knock me and my friend over, so I sort of created this weird, mostly ineffective barrier between this muppet and my friend. My motivations were two-fold. Sure I didn’t want my friend to suffer the same fate as I did with the windbreaker incident, but more selfishly, she was my ride home and if she got knocked to the ground where would that leave me? Luckily, the muppet moved on and we could enjoy the rest of the concert without incident.

I could go on and on about that evening, but its hard to find the appropriate words sometimes and “amazing” and “awesome” get overused, so we’ll just have to rely on our memories of that night, Prince style.

After the concert, I made a playlist on the iPod. It’s still one of the most played lists to this day. Since then, I’ve listened to Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs front to back, and even tracked down their EP. I’ve stayed up late to watch them at Coachella (online, silly), and PVRed them on Austin City Limits and the late night talk show circuit. I’m not sure when exactly I became a “fan” but seeing them live that night in September was a huge part of that transformation.

Which brings us to today.

In September, the first single was released. I first heard it in a hotel room in Minneapolis, appropriately enough, on that same friend’s iPad, the one that got me the floor ticket to the concert in 2010. It sounded like a dance mix, which stands to reason, as James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Union Sound Hall produced it. But it also distinctly sounded like “Arcade Fire”, so I was pretty excited. A few days later, the official video was released, and the song grew on me even more.

Last night, someone I follow on twitter was talking about how much he was enjoying the new Arcade Fire album and I thought to myself, “Show off. He must have got an early copy somewhere”, but then I heard that a rough version of it leaked onto Youtube, and the band decided to release a much higher quality version themselves.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. It’s been playing in the background in my office as I’m working. I’m not going to do a “track by track” review as I sometimes do, because I haven’t been able to give it my full attention. I CAN say that I am really enjoying what I’ve been hearing so far, and can’t wait to delve more deeply into it in the next few days and weeks. It starts off strong with “Reflektor” and other standouts so far are “It’s never over” and “Bring on the Night Time”. It’s a two album release, with a combined playing time of 1 hour 25 minutes. I haven’t quite got through the whole thing yet, so THIS REVIEW IS IN REAL TIME, people! (Porno has just started. I like the groove of it). Just one of the value added services we offer to you the reader.

Instead of just a static album cover, the album is being streamed over the pictures of this crazy looking Brazilian film, “Black Orpheus”. I have no idea what the connection is, except the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice seems to be a recurring thread amongst these songs. Oh, and speaking of literary references, I just found out last week that the line, “Never Trust a Millionaire, quoting the Sermon on the Mount” is actually taken from an essay by George Orwell and that George Orwell is one of Win Butler’s favourite writers.

I haven’t been following the Black Orpheus movie that closely, but it seems like your typical “boy meets girl” kind of thing, EXCEPT THAT OVER “It’s never over” THE BOY IS DRESSED LIKE A ROMAN GLADIATOR AND HE IS IN A MORGUE OR SOMETHING. (Spoiler).

Okay, and “Afterlife” has a pretty nice “New Order” vibe to it, which is making this writer very happy indeed. “Can we just work it out? Can we just work it out?…..”

And I think that’s all I got for now.

Questions?

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