Arcade Fire – Funeral: Who the Hell is R K Fire?


Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Funeral
Year: 2004
Grade: B+

In Brief: My opinion lies somewhere in between the critics and the masses. Funeral is a remarkable, though somewhat flawed, debut from a talented band.

Hi, my name is Lem and I’m 14. I thought it would be kewl to write up a music review because I am a fan of ALL kinds of music – everything from straight up Crenshaw gangsta rap like The Black Eyed Peas to grown-up pop music like Katy Perry. Sometimes I even listen to Eminem, but that’s mostly to keep my mom out of my treehouse. NEway, I was just watching the Grammy awards a couple a weeks ago, rooting for some of the best music I downloaded from Bittorrent because of all my friends were listening to it, when some band I’ve never heard of suddenly shows up and takes the Best Album awards! What up with that? Normally I go right out and steal the music that wins these kind of awards – a practice I call “Lemming”, because of my name, get it? But this group called R K Fire wasn’t even making music. Just a bunch of people looking like the whitest street gang U’know banging on instruments and yelling while people rode bikes around the stage and stuff. They won a Grammy for that? I could do that. Who the hell is R K Fire? If they deserved to beat Katy Perry and Eminem and Lady Gaga, then I shoulda heard of them by now.

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to interrupt you here. The group is called “Arcade Fire“, not “R K Fire”. And they’re one of the few groups making real, respectable rock music in a day and age where shock tactics and gratuitous use of auto-tune determine who wins the popularity contest. This group deserved the win, and all of their records deserve your undivided attention.

Hey, who are you and what are you doing interrupting my review? Mooooommmmmmmm!

I’m an informed music critic, you troll. My name is Rudyard Baron von Christfigure. Maybe you’ve heard of me – I’ve been writing for for three times as long as you’ve been alive. My friends call me “Christ”. But you can call me “Christ”.

LOLOL. That is NOT really your name.

Au contraire. I come from a long line of prestiguous Christfigures. And I sure as hell know a lot more about music than you do.

Whatev. Nobody cares about your pretentious indie crap. How many records have they even sold – a couple hundred?

They’ve sold millions of records – try doing your research. And they’ve been nominated for awards many times before this – including several Junos.

Juno? Like the pregnant girl? Hehe.

It’s a prestigious award where they’re from.

Where’s that?


*blank stare*


*blank stare*


Oh. Yeah, I heard of that state. It’s cold up there, is that why they lit the Video Arcade on Fire?

You are absolutely *rolls eyes* HILARIOUS.

Thanks! But srsly, how could they get that many nominations when they’re only on their first album? I guess Alanis Morissette and Celine Dion didn’t put anything out this year?

The Suburbs” is their THIRD album, you dolt. You really should brush up on your music history. They released their first album, “Funeral”, in 2004, and it is an undisputed modern classic.

Sha right! And monkeys might fly up my butt! I’ve never even heard of it, how could it be a classic?

It came out while you were still in diapers, apparently. Look at just about any music critic’s short list for the entire last decade, and you’ll see that album at or near the top. It is a vibrant, visceral work that gnaws at the very foundation of the listener’s soul. All of the bold instrumentation on display, all of the poignant vocal exclamations… every note of it is perfect.Anyone who says otherwise is a simple-minded dilettante.

There you go with the Piglatin again or whatever you call it.

It’s Italian, you dolt. And “au contraire” was French.

I got some French for you. Wanna hear it?

No. You don’t even know what real French sounds like. There’s some of it on “Funeral”, actually. You really should give that record a careful listen instead of ignorantly criticizing what you haven’t even given a chance.

What, so the gods of snobby college music can open up my ears and pee pure liquid gold into my head?

Yeah, something like that. And I copyrighted that “liquid gold” comment when I reviewed
My Bloody Valentine back in the early eighties. I expect to be paid royalties when you use it.

Whatever you say, old fart. So you’re giving me homework now?

Yes. I want you to put your money where your mouth is and actually sit down and LISTEN to “Funeral”, all 10 tracks of it, no skipping around. It’s best appreciated as its creators envisioned it. Then come back and tell me what you’ve learned.

Deal! I will listen you to your crappy record and I will come back and tear it apart. Then I’ll be all like, “Boo-yaa IN YOUR FACE!” Haha!

We’ll see about that.


1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Ugh! So I listened to your CD and it is crap. Is this even music? The piano’s just doing its own thing and everything’s all disorganized. Dude can’t even sing, so he just starts yelling louder and louder and the whole thing is just a bunch of chaos. You think just because there’s a loud guitar that I accept this as rock music? Come on, you only like this stuff because the other critics tell you to.

Really, is that all you got out of such a powerful song? There’s so much energy in this one – listen more closely and you’ll understand why Win Butler‘s voice rises to an uncontrolled fever pitch over the course of the song. He’s reliving difficult memories of his parents splitting up; remembering happier times when he and his friends from the neighborhood would sneak into each other’s homes at night, maybe listen to their favorite records, or just do anything to drown out the fighting. How could a kid like you not relate to that?

Um… well cuz I never knew my father for one thing.

Oh. Sorry to hear that.

PSYCH!!! But srsly man, everybody in music whines about their dads. What makes this so special?

It’s the way it all comes together. What starts as a siwrling pool of fractured memories coalesces into a beautiful melodic hook that I’m sure even a simpleton like yourself should be able to appreciate. But let’s not dwell on it. Certainly you must have reacted more favorably to the next few songs?

2. Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)

OMG this is even worse!!! Now it’s all banging drums and yelling and some dude who can barely get his guitar to make any sounds! Then they start in with the accordion which is only cool when Weird Al does it. And they have to add a chick yelling in the background just in case it wasn’t irritating enough? What is WRONG with these people? You are srsly on crack if you like this.

You say “seriously” way too much. And they’re called vowels – look into them. Again, you’re just reacting to the most superficially obvious elements of the song – yes it’s loud, and yes the melody is subverted in favor of the sheer force of the song. Listen to the brilliant language of it – it’s about a family at war with one another. The older brother is the pariah of the group, going off on adventures that worry the parents sick, while the younger brothers idolize him. You can’t really sing about something like that calmly, can you? And should I point out the hypocrisy of griping about this when you claim to like Eminem?

LOL did you miss the part where I said it annoys my mom?

Well, try annoying her with this; it’d be a step up. Maybe she’ll name YOU Laïka and launch you in a probe headed for outer space, just to see what happens.

Um… I don’t get it?

It was an experiment launched by the Soviet Union’s Space Program. They sent a dog into outer space. Look it up.

The Soviet Union? What the hell’s that?


3. Une Année Sans Lumière

Wow, so they actually came up with a different title this time? Amazing, they really DO have talent! ROFL. So this is what they sound like when they’re not yelling? YAWN. I can’t even understand what they’re singing, they should learn to enunciate. Something about seeing your shadow? Is this like a song for Groundhog’s Day? And why does it suddenly pick up at the end? If you decide three minutes into your song that it’s supposed to actually have a beat, shouldn’t you just go back and redo the first three minutes?

Well, at least you paid attention all the way through the song. And sure, this is one of their more subdued songs – it’s not as well known as some of the big, brash fan favorites that most people think of when they remember “Funeral”. It might be best to remember here that music doesn’t necessarily need to be understood to be enjoyed. The title – which means “A Year Without Light” – is in French, as are many of the lyrics, which they’re enunciating just fine, thank you very much. I rather like the hushed electric guitar and the bilingual vocals, actually. It gives texture to the darkness described by the song, and it forms a thematic bridge into the next piece. Just because the title isn’t the same doesn’t mean that there isn’t any thematic connection between the songs. The way it perks up at the end also serves the continuity of the album quite well.

WHOA lots of big words there old man! I guess I should be glad you memorized the whole dictionary; that way you at least know how to type the title for me with all of its weird accents and crap.

They’re called “diacritics”, you imbecile.

Yeah, well you know whose about to die? A critic! And then it’ll be your FUNERAL! LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!


4. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

Oh yeah now this is more like it! This one’s got a beat, I can dance to it.

I know I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, considering you actually seem to have enjoyed this one… but that’s it? A good beat and you’re sold?

It’s catchy. Good music is catchy, you can play it on the radio or in a club. I wouldn’t play this in da club, though. Too depressing. The lights are out and people are sneaking around doing creepy stuff?

Isn’t that what people do in clubs?

Oh come on like you would know! They sure don’t play xylophones and little kid instruments like that in clubs. I bet this band rode the short bus to school.

Wow. Even on a song you like, you have to insult the group.

Well, I didn’t say I liked everything about it. Dude’s still back to shouting halfway through the song. And what’s with this “Jesus Christ, don’t hide your light” stuff? Gives me bad memories of Sunday school.

Well, I’m sorry to have given you flashbacks to those painful memories of last week. OHHHHHH BURN!!!!!

That’s what your mom said.

*Double facepalm*

5. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)

We’re on 4 songs with the same title now? These guys struggle with naming stuff. And we’re back in boring mode. BOO! Whoever’s playing the violin sounds like they’re torturing a cat. And there’s this high-pitched whine on top of that! And a low-pitched whine too, but that’s the lead singer going on about old folks and unborn babies and stuff, haha. This is pure slow torture that just goes on forever! How can anyone listen to this?

For starters, there’s actually an acoustic guitar and some drums if you listen closely. But fair enough, this is the sparsest track on the record by far, and one of its most challenging. The “high-pitched whine”, as you call it, isn’t just random. It’s supposed to be the sound of hot water boiling in a kettle – which is what they used before microwaves invented, because I know you’re gonna ask. Have you ever heard the phrase “a watched pot doesn’t boil”? This song tries to corroborate that theory. It’s a litmus test of the listener’s patience.

Well, it sure seems to go by faster when I’m not paying attention.

Wow. Against all odds, you might just have gotten the point here. I think.

6. Crown of Love

OK I guess we finally escaped the ‘hood. Except now we get sorry-@$$ love songs like this. This is like the worst of my grandparents’ music – some guy griping about his girl leaving him, like something straight outta the 50’s. Nobody wants to hear you trying to be Elvis, dude. You apparently don’t even wanna hear it either cuz right at the end of the song you suddenly decide it’s disco for a minute and then you just give up totally! What’s with these guys, it’s like they can’t even pick one lame style of music and stick with it!

You keep saying “guys”. Do you not realize that there are two women in the band, and one of them is the lead singer’s wife? The song doesn’t necessarily have to be about the songwriter, you know. And sometimes a simple throwback to a simpler era of rock music is a good thing. Trust me, in 40 years’ time you’ll be idolizing the bands from your childhood and griping about whatever the kids are listening to in 2050. It’s a cyclical thing. The fact that the band gives it a “disco” beat at the end, as you call it, symbolizes to me that the music is timeless – it’s not tied to any one era. And sure, this is one of their simpler and more overlooked songs, but it’s got far more merit than you’re giving it credit for.

Whatever. These guys could fart in a bag and you’d still call it brilliant.

Grrrrrr… It’s like talking to a brick wall while bashing your head against the very same.

7. Wake Up

Okay, I’m going to start off this time, because I just KNOW you’ll recognize this song. it was in the trailer for “Where the Wild Things Are”, which I’m sure you dragged your mommy to the theater to see.

Whatever dude, I was 12 when that movie came out. I just snuck in so they couldn’t check my ID.

The joke’s on you; that was rated PG. But let’s not get into it. This is a great song that deserves to be heard in full, not just as a commercialized snippet that focuses on the happy parts. Surely you must relate to the loss of innocence felt in this song, and the rallying cry to get it back. This is one of those moments where the band just plows forward with the force of a rowdy choir. How could you not love it?

Let me count the ways! It’s slow as hell – there’s that big deep guitar, but they try to rock out and it’s a total epic fail. They sound like a group of school kids all singing along like that. And the ending is totally gay. They seriously need to stop switching up styles in the middle of songs, it’s sooooooo annoying.

If by “gay”, you mean “happy”, I’ll take that as a compliment, however unintended. It is a joyous ending, and it’s unfortunate that you feel the need to rip on music for being depressing, but then insult it out of some misguided attempt to prove your masculinity when it actually tries to do something uplifting. Apparently all that gets your attention is foul-mouthed rappers and young lolitas gyrating their hips.

Well, they call that “mature content”, don’t they? You’re the one telling me how great this fantasy-land song about wanting to be a kid again is. Whose more grownup now?

I… I… I have no words.

8. Haïti

OMGWTFBBQ this is the funniest one!!! It’s like you know when my parents had tapes and they took the tapes and put them in the tape player and the tape player would eat the tapes and the sound would be all like speeding up and slowing down and how big a fail is that that they did it on am mp3! And now the chick is singing and she sounds like a little kid and the music’s all like something from Teletubbies and BAHAHAHAHA THIS IS HILARIOUS!!! Worst. Charity. Song. Ever.

Oh, really? What makes you think it’s a charity song?

Well duh, they named it “Haiti”. So obviously they’re just cashing in on when everybody was writing songs to sound like they cared about the earthquake.

Not cool, man. Really not cool. The earthquake happened in 2010. The song was written in 2004, and if you’d bother to pick up a decent newspaper, you’d know that the terrible inhumanity going on in Haiti stretches back to long before the earthquake.

Oh, so this is like from back when the tsunami hit?

Okay, forget the newspaper, just go read A GLOBE. No, the tsunami did not hit Haiti. And the band is not “cashing in” on any charity trend here. Régine Chassagne – who has a lovely voice and don’t you DARE try to tell me otherwise – wrote this song about her parents fleeing from Haiti and the unspeakable things that happened to other members of her family there. This is a very serious song. You shall not mock it.

Well excuse me, how am I supposed to understand what’s going on when half of it is in French?

Ever heard of Google?

That’s a French word too? So what’s it mean?

*Triple facepalm*

How can you do that, you don’t even have enough hands.

Shut it.

9. Rebellion (Lies)

“Come on hide your lovers! Underneath the covers!” Alright, now this I can get into. About time the guy got off his sad sack butt and got laid! Not too bad of a rocker for the old bump and grind, if you know what I mean.

Of course I
know what you mean. You just said it in the preceding sentence. And this is NOT a song about sex. It’s about deception and the great lengths people go to when seeking to control others. I’m really disheartened that you couldn’t even catch such a basic message in a reasonably straightforward song. At least this one sort of peaks on your “rawk” scale, I take it?

Yeah, it’s about a 5 out of 10. So I shouldn’t play this one for my gf?

Well, setting aside my incredulity at your claim to have a young woman around who can actually tolerate you… Not if your intent is to get her into the sack. As if that were all music were good for. You’re totally missing the point here. This song is driving and forceful not because it wants to get people into bed, but because it wants to get them out of a subdued state of hiding under the covers, waiting for a threat that never actually arrives. The pounding piano and the teasing sing-song vocals do so much to mock that sense of impending doom. It’s a thrilling eleventh hour hit.

Alright, chill out man. No need to have an orgasm.

No comment.

That’s a comment.


10. In the Backseat

Woohoo, now THIS must be the song I’ve been waiting for! The chick sings it and tt’s totally about doing it in the backseat, BOW-CHICKA-WOW!

How do you even know what “bow-chicka-wow” means? You know what, I don’t want to know. Just grow up, kid. Seriously. That’s what the song is all about – facing adulthood and no longer being content to be the little kid riding along in the backseat, not knowing where you’re going or why. Don’t you look forward to learning to drive? I’d think you’d really relate to this one, honestly.

Nah, too slow and depressing. Half these guys songs seem to be like that. They’re all going off-key again with the strings or whatever those wormy instruments are that take forever to fade out at the end. They decide they want to rock out here for what, ten seconds? Then they go back to that boring piano.

Wow, that is really disappointing, because this is such an exquisite song and a perfectly appropriate finale for an album that is all about the family tree losing its leaves. It started with memories of parents who are no longer around, went through the many conflicts of childhood and the passage of time, and it ends up here with the maturation process finally taking root, and the little kid finally growing up and learning to call the shots.

Well, I feel like I’ve been growing a lot older with all the time I’ve spent listening to you go blah blah blah about how great this CD is. I still don’t see it.

Not at all? You can’t even give them some credit for doing something different and occasionally grabbing the attention of your puny little mind with at least an interesting hook, if nothing else?

Okay, yeah. I guess I can at least say that much. Good job, you got me to like maybe five minutes out of a boring forty-eight minute CD.

Wow, so at least you paid attention to how long it is. That’s more than I can say for the episode of “Chuck” that called the album “an audio aphrodesiac but got the length of it completely wrong.

You watch “Chuck”? Isn’t that the show about the nerds where they say “Bazinga”?

*Exasperated sigh* Looks like I’ve run out of palms.

Hey, I know what you’ve been doing with those palms.


*runs screaming* Moooooooooooommmmmmmmm!!!!!

Off-key shouting -$2
No cussing -$1
Kinda loud +$1
Instruments that people in “The Hills Have Eyes” would play -$1.50
Doing it in the backseat +$1.81
(see what I did there?)

Vibrancy $2
Visceralness $2
Luminosity $3
Transcendence $5
Founding a new religion $20
Proving how cutting-edge I am Priceless
Not being Radiohead… Eh, forgivable.

(Alright, time to knock it off with the role-playing and tell you what I really think.)

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) $1.50
Neighborhood #2 (Laïka) $1.50
Une Année Sans Lumière $1
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) $2
Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles) $1
Crown of Love $.50
Wake Up $2
Haïti $1.50
Rebellion (Lies) $1.50
In the Backseat $2
TOTAL: $14.50

Win Butler: Lead and backing vocals, guitars, mandolin, violin, keyboards, piano, synth, bass
Régine Chassagne: Lead and backing vocals, accordion, drums, piano, xylophone, hurdy gurdy, recorder, keyboards
Richard Reed Parry: Double bass, celesta, keyboards, piano, organ, synths, electric guitar, accordion, percussion, backing vocals
William Butler: Synthesiser, electric and upright bass, guitar, percussion, sitar, panpipes, trombone, omnichord, glockenspiel, saw, concertina, clarinet
Tim Kingsbury: Bass, guitar, keyboards
Sarah Neufeld: Fiddle, keyboards, backing vocals
Howard Bilerman: Drums (no longer with the band)



6 thoughts on “Arcade Fire – Funeral: Who the Hell is R K Fire?

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