Tonality explores, analyzes and interprets music of the past and present. All opinions are that of Benjamin Monckton.
One of the boldest and most poignant musical acts of the early 2000s was the Canadian group Arcade Fire. The group embodied an energetic, communal approach to their music. The 12-piece ensemble wrote masterful songs about the human experience, joined David Bowie onstage and even won a Grammy for Album of the year in 2011.
Since their 2011 Grammy win, Arcade Fire has released two more albums: 2013’s “Reflektor” and 2017’s “Everything Now.” These albums, however, have been less adored by critics and even their fans.
The group took a new direction in 2013, trading and outward-focused lyricism with cynicism and smugness. Even their sound, which used to be made up of thrashing acoustic guitars, violins and pianos changed. They added a synthesizer and becoming more effect-driven, removing the organic quality from the band’s sound.
At the time of their Grammy win, another musician was playing heavily-marketed farewell shows with his band, LCD Soundsystem. This musician’s name is James Murphy, the man who murdered Arcade Fire.
LCD Soundsystem is Murphy’s personal project. Before his massively successful album “Sound of Silver,” Murphy headed DFA Records in 2001.
In 2011, Murphy played his “final” show with LCD Soundsystem at Madison Square Garden. The concert itself is recorded in a documentary entitled “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” which Murphy himself produced.
Choosing to publicly share such an experience with the public turns a humbling private experience into a pretentious attention-seeking joyride.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Murphy said he chose to leave the band in order to “make coffee.” At another point in the documentary, an interviewer points out that the band’s ending is “strangely controlled,” that the final show is announced after a record. In layman’s terms: James Murphy made a big deal about LCD Soundsystem’s “final show.”
Prior to the recording of “Reflektor,” Arcade Fire and Murphy settled on working on a couple of songs together and seeing what would happen.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Murphy described his role in the production of “Reflektor.” “They have tended to say very nice things about the work I did, and I have tended to say that I didn’t do that much,” Murphy said. “All I needed to do was just help provide clarity in a different way, so it was pretty fun and nice, and everyone was remarkably respectful of one another.”
With their 2004 debut, Arcade Fire crafted a cohesive body of work that resonated with critics and fans alike. Songs like “Wake Up” and “Rebellion (Lies)” became full-bodied anthems in stadiums and arenas.
In 2017, Arcade Fire has become disconnected from the ideals that established them as a band that could craft perfect albums. But don’t blame Arcade fire. Blame the man who crafted a pretentious publicity stunt that gave him enough time to introduce an organic and original band to synthesized mediocrity.