You already have an opinion on this and if you don’t, why not? Anyone who was exposed to the last album will have gone some distance to hear this. Funeral was the mystery hit, shooting out of the obscurity of low-fi and bands like anti-folksters, Dufus, to mainstream acclaim. Balancing the high-wire between prog and fuzzed up stoner folk-rock, Arcade Fire make records designed to be listened to as ALBUMS – like with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s antithetical to the way the Ipod world is going but that just makes it cooler.
Neil Young explained in the nineties that he mixed his albums through a wall, figuring that if it didn’t sound good in the next room at high volume then it wasn’t up to much. This is an album in that mold, with less of the fingernails on acoustic guitar strings detail of the previous missive and a set of big, thuddy, muddy ensemble pieces. It’s a grower, taking a few listens to worm its way into your heart before taking up residence in the tottering pile right next to the stereo. All sorts of sounds are shoe-horned into the mix – strings, heavy church organ, choirs and female backing vocals – across the expected range of soundscapes from plod to hymn to the rockabilly drums of Keep The Car Running. Lyrical subject matter ranges over the same gloomy ground as Funeral with a beautifully resigned delivery, telling of starving families etc and warning us “it’s too late” and “nothing gets better”. It’s kind of a groovy version of The Willard Grant Conspiracy.
My partisan opinion would be that you need to hear and probably own this record.