Burning Down ULU

By londonist_mark Last edited 166 months ago
Burning Down ULU

Londonist was somewhat chuffed to be offered a last minute ticket to check out the Arcade Fire at ULU last week. And not wishing to carry out an equine dental inspection we said yes please and left work pretty sharpish.

The band first came to our attention when Seattle's KEXP made it their number one album of 2004. Then NME put them on their top 5 bands for '05 and ever since the album Funeral was released over here earlier this year the scribblers have been falling over themselves to define the wondereful sounds made by these Montrealers. And in their own words, failing.

So not one's to turn down a challenge...

There are seven members of the band on stage. During the course of the next hour and a bit they will play: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, double bass (which they will also just hit), drums, marching drum, violin, keyboards, accordian, xylophone, cow bells, tambourine, maracas, a flag, the PA, a crash helmet (whilst being worn by the guy who looks like Napoleon Dynamite), each other and one of those funny casio keyboard thingies that you blow into. They will sing songs about beauty, loss and the mundanities of life (and death), some of it in French. When not all of them can get to a microphone to sing yelling from the back of the stage will work just as well.

They come on stage shouting and leave through the audience chanting like monks. They jump around, they bounce of the walls, they bounce off each other, they mess up the last song and play an extra tune to make up for it before going back for one more try: "I think you know what this one's going to be..." They take a nice line with the hecklers. Whilst pausing to tune up up a happy punter shouts "Don't stop" to be met with the incredulous response: "What, don't stop tuning?"

Funeral is so titled because during its recording the band went to 9 family funerals (we are given an order of service on the way in and the guys are decked out in mourning suits, the girls in sombre blacks and mad pixie reds). But rather than getting all Morissey on yo ass frontman and band leader Win Butler decided that this was a sign to celebrate life. Which he and the others proceed to do with some infectious abandon. To this end they remind us greatly of the Polyphonic Spree. But they also have that off the wall take on French Canadian folk that Godspeed gave us; without the nightmares.

Arcade Fire songs generally start off at a pace, build and build before taking a sudden left into uncharted territory. Suddenly there's some Bjork in there, and hey, here are some Van Halen keyboards. Now it's Motown, now it's performance art, suddenly it's the Keystone Cops. Now classical, now it's everything and nothing like the Flaming Lips. Now it's... it's... hell's bells we don't even know what this bit sounds like but it's genius whatever it is. It is joyful, uplifting, indescribable, danceable pop music. It's not just a gig, it's a full on performance and the best damn wake you'd ever hope to go to.

So how to describe the Arcade Fire? Well all we can say is that they sound like the Arcade Fire and they are deserving of every piece of fawning press written about them including this one. They are the next best thing because they are the next best thing and we humbly request, we beseach, we implore, no we down right bloody tell you to check them out as soon as you can because life's too short too miss out.

They play the Astoria on the 9th of May which is quite rightly sold out. Do what you have to to get a ticket.

Last Updated 21 March 2005