Music For the win Arcade Fire’s new album The Suburbs cements their solid indie rock credentials, without compromising on their bleak vision, suggests Jonny Ensall
THE BEST ROCK, POP, JAZZ & FOLK
✽✽ Gerry Loves Xmas The Edinburgh record label gets festive, with twinkling electronica, electro-pop and wordsmithery. The Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh, Fri 3 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Randan Discotheque single launch RD’s new single, ‘Heather the Weather’, pays tribute to the Reporting Scotland meteorological honey. Support from understated, psych-flecked indie rock of Edinburgh five-piece, Pet. Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, Sat 4 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Matthew Dear See interview, page 63. Stereo, Glasgow, Sat 4 Dec; Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sun 5 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Blastonbury Hard metal from Prostitute Disfigurement, Anal Penetration, Cerebral Bore, Neonatal Death, Cancerous Womb, and, um, Joe Pesci. Seriously. Has there been a more promising sounding line-up? Bannerman’s, Edinburgh, Sun 5 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Acoustic Edinburgh Ziggy Campbell (the FOUND frontman) and Nuala Kennedy perform. Medina, Edinburgh, Tue 7 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Echo & The Bunnymen The post-punkers who gave us ‘The Killing Moon’, supported by Sub Pop-signed Kelley Stoltz. 02 Academy, Glasgow, Wed 8 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Manuel Göttsching Stunning minimal, ambient electronica, and it’s the German composer’s first Scottish date. See interview, page 63. Stereo, Glasgow, Sat 11 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Idlewild The band play through the entirety of their storming 100 Broken Windows album. Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Wed 15 Dec. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Saint Etienne The English alt.dance troupe (pictured) supported by Swedish indie- poppers, The Radio Dept. O2 ABC, Glasgow, Thu 16 Dec. (Rock & Pop)
A rcade Fire are unlikely contenders to be one of the world’s biggest bands. Thirty-year-old singer-songwriter Win Butler, his wife Régine Chassagne and the rest of the Montreal eight-piece produce songs of spiritual yearning and pain, documenting a future for America that is cold, conflicted and apocalyptic. Their death-inspired 2004 debut Funeral launched them slowly, but increasingly stratospherically, into listeners’ heavy hearts, evoking deep hopes and fears, and countering the plastic sheen of modernity with emotional belters.
The tense, frustrated sound of follow-up Neon Bible reflected the stress of their heavy tour commitments, and growing disgust at Bush’s America (Butler grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, but met his wife while studying at McGill University, Montreal). It was a difficult, at times ponderous, album that would have given any other band’s career a knock. Not so Arcade Fire, who took one year off, spent another two recording a deceptively simple but strikingly good third effort, August’s The S u bu r b s, and now return to a touring schedule. Their surly, awkward cool is still intact (note Wayne ‘Flaming Lips’ Coyne calling them ‘pricks’ last year and bemoaning their ‘pompousness’), while their ability to fill stadium venues seems stronger than ever. Not bad going for a band who’ve always held the darkness of the soul up as prominently as their guitar hooks. Their biggest ‘hit’ has been ‘Rebellion: Lies’, a F u n e ra l track about the possibility of sleeping forever. In a List interview in 2008 Butler described its first live outing: ‘I announced it something like, “I’ve been doing an experiment and I’ve figured out that you get to a point where you feel like you’re going to die, being awake, but if you actually just keep going then you never
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have to sleep ever again.” It was like a Pied Piper kind of idea, of leading the kids down the street. Basically a lie but a very heartfelt lie.’ Whereas, on Funeral, Butler’s vision covered Middle America in apocalyptic snow, The Suburbs is more obsessed with the generic concrete and simmering paranoia of the US as it is now. The album deals with disillusionment, sprawling nothingness and teen boredom spilling over into conflict. Its creation was inspired, Butler has suggested, by a photo an old schoolfriend sent, showing the friend and his daughter in front of their local mall. In Spike Jonze’s video for the album’s title track this concrete is turned into a washed-out indie reality, which, becomes the theatre for suburban warfare.
following Live, you realise the sadness of war follows closely behind the band’s Pied Piper fantasies. Régine Chassagne was born in Haiti, and wrote a moving article for T h e O b s e r v e r the devastating earthquake that compounded problems caused by years of brutal military dictatorship. On Funeral’s ‘Haiti’, she fantasises in French about the ghosts of her unborn Haitian cousins. It’s a moving track to play live, Butler says: ‘The lyrics of ‘Haiti’ are one of the best things me and Régine ever did. I guess that kind of chokes me up when I hear it.’
At the SECC the band will be joined by freak-folk poster boy Devendra Banhart, playing material from 2009 LP What Will We Be. It’s rare that emotional impact outweighs glitzy, voguish pop, or laddish rock’n’roll posturing, but this gig proves music for the heavy heart still has a loyal following. SECC, Glasgow, Sun 12 Dec.
THE DARKNESS OF THE SOUL IS AS PROMINENT AS THEIR GUITAR