Pet Bear Sounds already spilled a lot of pixels on Arcade Fire. Back in November of 2013 the post "ROTKELFER: Reflecting on Reflektor by Arcade Fire" - written shortly after the release of Arcade Fire's double-album Reflektor - posed the question: "Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation?"
In that long-winded post I concluded:
Arcade Fire may not have the universal appeal of U2 but their musical progression is similar. And while I continue to digest and enjoy the current Arcade Fire record, I'm already looking forward to what they can provide us with their fifth album. If only to look forward to a place to hang my hat. Hang on my hat on some bit of today's pop-culture not related to some shitty reality show and the guilty pleasures of Miley Cyrus, if only to call a modern band my own, if only to point my future children to Arcade Fire and say, "This is what it was like when I was your age" in hopes that they will understand what it was like for their old man. Much like the way I obsessively imagine what it was like to be young with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s and Floyd and Zeppelin in the '70s and U2 in the '80s.Blah blah blah. Long story short, I think Arcade Fire is pretty great. I think they have universal appeal. And I think if they had a big, radio-hit single they could find themselves climbing towards U2 status.
But I can't help myself but think; Just over a year after that post and a few months since the Arcade Fire concert at The Forum on Saturday, August 2, 2014, I'm still mulling over the question: Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation?
It is difficult to make the comparison considering I've never experienced a U2 show in their hey-day of the late-80s/early-90s and only saw them perform in the early-00s in a post-9/11 world on the back of their so-called "come back" album All That You Can't Leave Behind. But I had the luxury of seeing Arcade Fire twice in 2014: Once at Coachella and again in August at The Forum and I still can't help but romanticize that "This is what it was like back then."
In that November 2013 post I track the progression of both U2 and Arcade Fire by comparing their albums and there are a lot of similarities between the two bands. But it's hard to say if Arcade Fire ignites the same fire, passion and almost religious fervor that U2 seems to create.
But perhaps that is the problem; Maybe I just want Arcade Fire to stir the same embers that U2 seem to do for their generation of fans. After all, the similarities are there. But I now recognize and accept that U2 was a reflection of that era and Arcade Fire is a reflection of this era.
Arcade Fire's Reflektor - produced by LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy - cleverly captures a delicious blend of epic indie-rock with EDM-inspired grooves that fills the void between poignant (i.e. soul-bearing indie-rock) and mindless (i.e. EDM). In the same way, U2 wrapped social-consciousness with accessibility that touched hearts and nerves and launched U2 beyond the mainstream and directly into universality.
Could Arcade Fire be just as universal? The demographic of the audience at The Forum seems to suggest they can: Seen-it-all-before gray-haired rockers bobbing their heads alongside cross-armed hipsters mouthing words punctuated by the burst of excitable youngsters soaking in their first Big Show.
(If you were curious, Pet Bear Sounds schizophrenically falls into that space somewhere between gray-haired rocker, crossed-armed hipster and excitable youngster).
Arcade Fire may lack the so-called "singles" or the "hits" that demand the short but rapt attention of the public in the way U2 does (which is a discussion for another time) but Arcade Fire seem to be reaching towards a big universal theme like U2 while taking a different path.
U2 calls for collective action from the masses "in the name of love" while Arcade Fire unifies the masses with a sense of uncomfortable, unfamiliar introspection, asking "So can you understand why I want a daughter while I'm still young? I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before this damage is done."
U2 arrived in a world that thirsted for big revolutionary change and had the desire to fight the good fight in the great battle for Justice but perhaps the current generation feels that the big battles are over or too daunting, perhaps un-winnable like the so-called War on Terror. And with all this Fight The Good Fight fatigue, now the big battle seems to be within the individual: How to search for small/personal/the-little-things meaning in a largely cynical world.
Is Arcade Fire the U2 of our generation? I think so.
And if Arcade Fire continue to progress as they have done so far, we may look back on Arcade Fire and remember them as the reflection of our current time in the same way U2 reflected their time.
Of course, I'm probably over-thinking it. But, y'know, isn't that what this blog is all about?
(Hint: It is).
Oh, and one more thing. You've probably listened to Reflektor a million times by now but back in that Arcade Fire post I wrote a year ago I re-organized the sprawling double-album two different ways so you have two new ways to experience the album:
- Listen to Reflektor back-to-front (i.e. last track first; first track last). Click here to open Spotify and listen to my "Rotkelfer" playlist.
- Click here to open Spotify and listen to a Disc 1 vs. Disc 2 version of Reflektor. Track 1 on Disc 1 will be followed by Track 1 on Disc 2; Track 2 on Disc 1 then Track 2 on Disc 2; Track 3 on Disc 1 then Track 3 on Disc 2; etc., etc.
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