Arcade Fire

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"I don't wanna work in a building downtown, I don't wanna see all the planes hit the ground..."

Arcade Fire, "(Antichrist Television Blues)"
Us kids know.

Arcade Fire, sometimes misnomered as "The Arcade Fire" [1] , is a Canadian indie rock band formed in Montreal in 2003 by American brothers Win and Will Butler and Win's Haitian-born Quebecois wife Regine Chassagne, among others. Since that time, they've acquired a reputation for dynamic live shows and have several famous fans. Bono and David Byrne have both sung their praises, and they've performed live with David Bowie, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.

The band is also known for doing things that would normally destroy a band's reputation, but somehow getting away with their reputation unscathed. They constantly change their sound between albums (and in one case between an EP and an album), which always splits their fanbase, and they had a feud with Flaming Lips member Wayne Coyne.

The band's third album, The Suburbs, was awarded the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, which many music writers claim is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the band, their label Merge Records, and the indie rock genre as a whole.


Wikipedia has a more complete list.

  • Arcade Fire (Demo recorded in 2003 and released commercially in 2005)
  • Funeral (2004)
  • Neon Bible (2007)
  • The Suburbs (2010, 2011)
  • Reflektor (2013)
  • Everything Now (2017)
  • While not an official AF release, Win, Regine and band associate Owen Pallett recorded music for Richard Kelly's The Box (2009)
  • They also recorded a track, "Abraham's Daughter", for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games movie.

Arcade Fire provides examples of the following tropes:
  • After the End: "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)".
  • Album Title Drop: Even discounting the two title tracks, The Suburbs is full of this.
    • To be fair, the album's setting does take place in the suburbs, so it's not a excuse to drop the title of it repeatedly.
    • While the band formed in Canada, Win Butler and his brother and bandmate William were born and raised in the suburbs [2] of Houston, Texas. Regine Chassagne, on the other hand, was born and raised in the suburbs of Montréal.
  • An Aesop: "The Well and the Lighthouse" is based off of one of Aesop's fables.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: "Crown of Love".
  • Arc Words: "The kids," "the neighborhood/neighbors"
  • Audience Participation Song: "Rebellion (Lies)," "Intervention," "No Cars Go," "Wake Up."
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Just try and count how many times some variation on the phrase "the kids" appear. Taken Up to Eleven with The Suburbs.
  • Band of Relatives: Type 1. Win and Will Butler, of course. Also, Win and Regine are married.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The French lyrics. Since they formed in Quebec, and Regine hails from (and sings about) Haiti, it would probably be unwise to call it gratuitous.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "In the Backseat" is this for Funeral. It comes at the end of an album that features childhood as a recurring theme, and "In the Backseat" is about growing up.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Rebellion (Lies)"
    • "No Cars Go."
  • Call Back: The songs from The Suburbs have a lot of these, connecting the characters and settings of each song to another. There's even a call back to Neon Bible: In "(Antichrist Television Blues)" (from the latter album), the narrator prays to God for a child because "I wanna put it up on the TV screen." Later, in the title track of "The Suburbs," the narrator prays to God for a child, but for a very different reason ("I wanna show her some beauty before all this damage is done").
    • "The Suburbs" (and the album of the same name) opens with "In the Suburbs I learned to drive/and you told me we'd never survive/grab your mother's keys, we're leaving." These lines are echoed in the much bleaker "Suburban War."
    • In turn, the phrase "This town is so strange/they built it to change" appears in "Suburban War" and is then referred to on the even darker track "Sprawl I (Flatland)."
    • "Deep Blue" contains the line "a song from the speaker of a passing car/born from a dying star." A similar, but darker line appears in "Suburban War" as "The cities we live in could be distant stars/and I search for you in every passing car"
    • "Wasted Hours" and "Month of May" both contain the line "first they built the road/and then they built the town/and that's why we're still driving around."
  • Concept Album: All of their albums have at least shades of this: Funeral focuses on aging, loss, and community; Neon Bible is darker and fixates on the apocalypse and religion, with television and the ocean also used as motifs; and you get one guess as to what The Suburbs is about.
  • Costume Porn: Men in the band tend to look like 19th century farmers. Women wear ball gowns and opera gloves that seem to be a similar vintage. They've more or less abandoned this look recently for a modern semi-formal look while promoting the The Suburbs.
  • Dark Reprise: "Suburban War" for "The Suburbs."
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: Not exactly, but all three albums have perhaps their most epic songs as the penultimate tracks: "Rebellion (Lies)" on Funeral, "No Cars Go" from Neon Bible, and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" off The Suburbs.
    • Weirdly, however, the vinyl version and only the vinyl version of The Suburbs does away with this, as the second-to-last track is not "Sprawl II," but the more mournful "Suburban War."
  • Every Episode Ending: At almost every show, (spoilered for those who wish to keep their live shows a surprise): Rebellion (Lies) serves as the finale of the main show. The encore usually ends with "Intervention" or "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)."
  • Eye Scream: "Crown of Love" has a line about the narrator carving the name of the girl he loves across his eyelids. It's metaphorical, but it's still a gruesome image and adds to the bleak tone of the song.
  • Fading Into the Next Song: "Haiti" into "Rebellion (Lies)" on Funeral.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "In the Backseat."
  • Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: One for The Suburbs was released with an extended version of "Wasted Hours" (subtitled "A Life We Can Live"), two new tracks ("Culture War" and "Speaking in Tongues", the latter featuring David Byrne), a DVD including Spike Jonze's Scenes from the Suburbs film and extras, and a booklet.
  • Love At First Note: Win first met Regine when she was singing jazz at an art gallery. Taking this trope Up to Eleven, they wrote a song together ("Headlights Look Like Diamonds") on their very first date.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Crown of Love," "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Almost all of their songs sound ecstatically joyful on the surface, but many have darker undertones, none more jarring than "Intervention":

Every spark of friendship and love
Will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan
We'll go at it alone

  • Meaningful Echo: Lots and lots of it on The Suburbs.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "The Suburbs (Continued)" is the band's shortest song.
  • The Movie: Scenes From The Suburbs is one for...The Suburbs, with Spike Jonze directing.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: As eclectic as you'd expect a rock band with an accordionist (Regine) and string section to be. Their live shows have been described as like "a Clash concert hijacked by the Cirque Du Soleil."
  • Rearrange the Song: "The song" in this case being "No Cars Go," a tune from their self-titled EP. They did a pretty good job with it, too.
  • Religion Rant Song: "Intervention," "Neon Bible," and "(Antichrist Television Blues)" are all Type 3s, in that they don't attack God or the idea of God, but are instead about the different ways in which religion is misused by many (as an excuse to go to war, as a way to gain money, and as a justification for being the worst type of Stage Dad, respectively).
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Win Butler smashed his guitar on SNL after one of the strings broke mid-song.
    • His brother Will can be seen doing this in several performances, with his preferred victims being drums.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Quite a few of their songs, especially those from Neon Bible. Hell, just listen to Well and the Lighthouse or this little masterpiece !
  • Self-Titled Album: The Arcade Fire EP, natch.
  • Signature Song: "Rebellion (Lies)" is the most obvious, though "Wake Up," "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)," and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" would probably also qualify.
  • Something Blues: Of the "(Antichrist Television)" variety.
  • Stage Dad: "(Antichrist Television Blues)" The track is rumored to have been originally titled "Joe Simpson (Antichrist Television Blues)", meant as a direct attack at the father of Jessica Simpson and his exploitation of his daughter's sexuality while stating that he's a very religious man.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Touched on in (what else?) The Suburbs.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Does this commercial for Microsoft sound familiar to you?
  • Teens Are Monsters: Largely averted. Their songs tend to portray teens in a sympathetic light. Some songs on The Suburbs, most notably "Rococo" and "Month of May", do include a few Take Thats at "the kids", but are still a long way from portraying them as monsters, though.
    • "Rococo" is basically all about the kids in today's world who were raised to be cynical and proud, trying to impress people with their large vocabulary and hating everything about popular culture. In other words, hipsters. In other other words, people who listen to Arcade Fire. Although to be fair, it's not about all teens, just certain groups.
    • Somehow the hipsters that it was aimed at ate it right on up without realizing that the track was aimed specifically at them. No one knows if it's just that they're socially smart, or they just dodge all of these by sheer coincidence. Which actually proves that the song was spot on, when you think about it...
  • Unperson: From "Intervention:" "And when you finally disappear, they'll say you were never here."
  • Wham! Line: From "(Antichrist Television Blues)": "I'm through being cute/I'm through being nice/Oh tell me Lord/Am I the Antichrist?"
  • X Meets Y: David Bowie meets Bruce Springsteen meets Radiohead.

If I could have it back... all the time that I wasted, I'd only waste it again, and again, and again... (sometimes I can't believe it, I'm moving past the feeling...)

  1. Maybe not. The band has introduced themselves at live shows as The Arcade Fire, but the album art always says Arcade Fire. Oh, and just to make things more confusing, the booklet for The Suburbs has both spellings. While the jury's out on this one, please scrobble their music under "Arcade Fire" if you have a account.
  2. Big surprise, right?