- 10 Jan 06
Annual article: Arcade Fire’s astonishing Funeral defined, illuminated and soundtracked the whole year.
Bloc Party, University Challenge clever boys that they are, saw it all coming. On Valentine’s Day they released Silent Alarm and, halfway through ‘Positive Tension’, anticipated an extraordinary year for pop music. “Something glorious is about to happen,” Kele Okerere roared, and he was right: within a fortnight, the Arcade Fire album was out.
To say that Funeral is the best record since The Soft Bulletin, that is, the record of the century so far, is quite something – I remember thinking that The Flaming Lips had figured out the meaning of life on that one. It’s also obvious. Everyone loves Funeral and everyone has their Arcade Fire moment. (Mine is the second time I played ‘Neighborhood #1’ on the way to work, just finding my way in to the album; however it was that my mood and the sunlight came together with the pounding crescendo as Win Butler cries, “Then we think of our parents / Whatever happened to them?”, tears stung my eyes on the early morning M50. But in a good way. A “Wow” way.)
In most years, that would be it. In 2005, though, the Arcade Fire were fighting them off. Not that you would have known this from radio, where the worst culprit continues to be Tom Dunne. To pick one fault: Tom seems to be unaware that a band can have a back catalogue of more than one song. Is he hilariously lazy, or has he no interest in music? Hardly both.
So you either had to adjust your body clock, quit your job and wait up for Dineen, or head for the blogs; and there, you found an abundance. 2005 was the year of Jens Lekman’s ‘Black Cab’, M83’s ‘Teen Angst’, Caribou’s The Milk of Human Kindness, Rogue Wave’s ‘Publish My Love’, Ed Harcourt’s spine-scarring ‘Loneliness’, the grandeur of The National’s Alligator, and the daft, weirdly touching juvenilia of Art Brut’s ‘Good Weekend’ (“Got myself a brand new girlfriend/ Got myself a brand new girlfriend/ I’ve seen her naked/ TWICE!”).
Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart broke through big-style; Sufjan made the better record, but you’d be forgiven for expecting more from Devendra, if only because Illinoise was so well researched, so crafted and such bloody hard work, a Roy Keane of an album, while Banhart just seems to have The Music on tap, like a freak-folk George Best. Then there was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s ‘’In This Home On Ice’, Gorillaz’ ‘Dirty Harry’, LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Tribulations’, Roisin Murphy’s Ruby Blue, Ben Folds’ ‘Gracie’, Elbow, Annie, Clor... all this, and Gwen Stefani too.
OK, ‘Cool’ was muck; ‘Hollaback Girl’, cool as fuck. Wildly imaginative, exquisitely produced, and mad as a bag of cats, if we never see a better Number One, we’ll be doing OK. When we were young, Adam and the Ants told us: “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of”. Gwen heard, and learned, and how did she reply? “The shit is bananas!/ B.A.N.A.N.A.S!”
Amen to that, and long live pop.