Arcade Fire – Arcade Fire – EP

Arcade Fire – EP (2003)


1. Old Flame 2. I’m Sleeping In A Submarine 3. No Cars Go 4. The Woodland National Anthem 5. My Heart Is An Apple 6. Headlights Look Like Diamonds 7. Vampire/Forest Fire


Hmm, so this is what Arcade Fire sounds like without all the elaborate orchestration and 25 people all banging on something at the same time! They sound… really generic! Just imagine amateur DIY early 2000s indie rock in your head, and congratulations! You’ve heard this record. Beginner level guitar parts? Check! Some accordion and cello and shit, included as if to say, “Hey! Look how non-traditional our instrumentation is!”? Check! Clumpy drums that completely remove the possibility of anything on this album actually rocking? Check! Shittily recorded, out of tune vocals? Check! Twee as fuck? Check!

And yes, I called it an album even though it’s supposedly an “EP,” but what kind of EP is 33 minutes long and features two songs (out of seven) that are at least 6 minutes long? I’m not sure the Ramones ever put out an album this long. Therefore, I shall henceforth refer to this here collection of songs as “the self-titled debut album by acclaimed Montreal-based indie rockers Arcade Fire” (the fans apparently call it Us Kids Know after a line in “No Cars Go.” I guess I could call it that instead, but it wouldn’t as fun).

To be fair, after a few listens to the self-titled debt album by acclaimed Montreal-based indie rockers Arcade Fire, it becomes evident that these guys and gals had a little bit of a mojo working and that they had the potential to go places. There are plenty of good, solid melodic ideas on display throughout the record—not in every song, mind you but at least half of them—along with an obvious vision for creative, instrumentally diverse arrangements. And they certainly know how to set a mood – even with all those people playing, there’s still a strong undercurrent of loneliness and discomfort running throughout. Poor, sad Win Butler. These are skills that would continue to serve the band well going forward. Unfortunately, at this early stage, the band possessed neither the recording budget nor the chops to actually pull off some of the things they were going for. For instance, “I’m Sleeping In A Submarine” could have been a really cool song—it’s got a well-constructed melody and those intriguing, dreamlike piano arpeggios running throughout the entire thing—but it’s effectively ruined by annoying clickety clack percussion and some of the most unpleasant, not-even-close-to-in-tune vocals you will ever hear in your life (Regine must have taken singing lessons after recording this album or something, because she never sounded anywhere near as bad after this). Likewise, you can hear them aiming to create this epic mosh pit shout along with “No Cars Go,” and while the song itself is a winner—that melody is a real earworm; I’ve had it stuck in my head all day!—the performance presented here is just too sloppy and thin-sounding to generate any real power. It’s no surprise that they returned to this song on Neon Bible in 2007 in order to give it a proper work up.

Interestingly, the two most enjoyable songs on the album are effective for opposing reasons. “Old Flame” is good because it’s the only song here that fully embraces the band’s budgetary limitations and keeps things as simple as possible – just some basic clean guitar arpeggios, a steady mid-tempo groove, controlled vocals. You know, indie rock. On the other hand, the closing “Vampire/Forest Fire” is the one song here that actually transcends those aforementioned limitations. The slow build up from the tender strumming at the beginning to the noisy ending is executed seamlessly. That said, why the hell is Win doing an affected hick accent on this song and the preceding “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” that makes him sound like he’s trying to imitate Wayne Coyne? He should have stuck with that shrill off key wailing he was doing on the rest of the album!

Actually, scratch that. No, he shouldn’t have.

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