45 45s #13 Arcade Fire – Cold wind (Rough Trade, 2005)

Cold windClaire: Why did you have to die? It really sucks. Everything’s unravelling since you’re gone.
Nate: That’s not true.
Claire: It feels that way. I miss you. I miss you so fucking much!
Nate: I miss you, too.
Claire: You know how I always used to tell you you weren’t Dad, after Dad died? It was such a waste of time thinking that way.
Nate: No, it’s just part of how you dealt with it. It kept you from missing Dad so much.
Claire: No, it kept me from ever knowing you as much as I really could have, and now you are so completely fucking gone! It’s just …
Nate: Claire –
Claire: What? It sucks!
Nate: Stop listening to the static.
Claire: What the fuck does that mean?
Nate: Nothing. It just means that everything in the world is like this transmission, making its way across the dark. But everything – death, life, everything – it’s all completely suffused with static. [makes static sounds] You know? But if you listen to the static too much, it fucks you up.
Claire: Are you high?
Nate: I am actually, yeah, quite high.

Arcade Fire are one of those groups about whom I feel the need to say, please leave your preconceptions at the door. I suppose they’ve only got themselves to blame though, getting all messianic with the gigantic misstep that was The neon bible. But either side of that, wherever you look, you see a great group. Their 2002 Arcade Fire EP (a.k.a. Us kids know) is especially good and includes the irresistible vehicular chugging and musketeer chanting of the original version of ‘No cars go’ and the sorrowful familial truth-saying and two-part orchestration of ‘Vampire / Forest fire’, while I also keep returning to 2010’s The suburbs in more or less the same way Win Butler keeps returning to his youth as a source of inspiration. That is, like a dog to a bone.

Their ferociously collective mind-set propels the songwriting of the core duo – Butler and Régine Chassagne – to the kind of heights it merits. Together, the emotional interplay between the two and the group’s committed performances allow them to create upwards momentum without necessarily hitting the switch labelled ‘crescendo’ or the foot pedal marked ‘rock out’. ‘Cold wind’ manages to be both understated and yet still to climax with a little of that rabble-rousing performance art meets circus troupe panache. I imagine it was their facing-down of death (or at least bereavement) on 2004’s Funeral LP which led to the song being featured in the consistently surprising and excellent TV series Six feet under, where it appeared in Static, the penultimate episode of the fifth and final season. In fact, it’s easy to imagine members of Arcade Fire drifting into Six feet under as characters; you certainly get that sense from their lyrical concerns. And that’s to nod also at the sense of humour and lineage which allowed them to record a version of Ary Barroso’s ‘Brazil’ as the B side of this piece of clear vinyl, as well as to issue a recording of swing musician Alvino Rey’s ‘My buddy’ as an earlier B side; Rey being Win and his brother William’s grandfather.

Nate: [as imagined by Brenda] I’m just saying you only get one life. There’s no God, no rules, no judgments, except for those you accept or create for yourself. And once it’s over, it’s over. Dreamless sleep forever and ever. So why not be happy while you’re here. Really. Why not?

(Quotes from Static.)

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