Music Commentary

Arcade Fire wins coveted Album of the Year award at the Grammys

February 14, 2011

It’s not something I could have predicted, even in the context of my glowing review of The Suburbs upon its release, but I hope this does more to legitimize the “indie rock” scene than it does to commercialize it, which is where the Alternative Rock of the ’90s started to resemble smegma and radio started to devolve into a mainstream Neanderthal of regurgitated, overplayed hit singles.

I guess that’s what happens when Kurt Cobain blows his brains out.

Another part of me feels a bit acrimonious towards Arcade Fire’s recent feat.  If Win Butler and his crew couldn’t be more swellheaded and full of hot air.  I stand by Wayne Coyne on this one, Win Butler and Co. reek of pomposity, and anyone that behaves as such against The Flaming Lips during Montreal’s Parc Jean Dupreau in 2006 (a nigh Neon Bible-era show) has to be out of their minds, good music notwithstanding.

What could have been The Ampersand’s experience, you might ask?

A few of us at the Ampersand had the pleasure of seeing Win and the band on their Neon Bible tour back in May, 2007, in Montreal no less. And well, we do remember that Mr. Butler got particularly upset at one fan who must have been asking for a drum stick or something from the third or fourth row of the crowd, a fairly typical if banal irritant. Near the end of the gig, before finishing off the encore, an enraged Butler swooped to the back of the stage, grabbed a couple of sticks and hurled them into the crowd, yelling something like, “There you go. You got your sticks. Now would you stop holding up that goddam sign?” His voice, we vividly recall, dripped with sarcasm. The sign, presumably, was asking for drum sticks. But the whole thing seemed a little blown out of proportion, and now with Coyne’s comments coming to light, we have to wonder, do the crowned royalty of Canadian indie rock have an anger management problem? Are they really on such short fuses because of, you know, the over-commodification of their art? And if so, why take it out on the Flaming Lips?

My two cents?  I recently caught Arcade Fire at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, touring The Suburbs.  When an unfortunate technical difficulty temporarily befell the band’s performance (a drum machine fell out of sync, as I vaguely recall), Butler got very angry, to the extent of using the F-bomb in relation to the farce.  He then proceeded to play a Funeral song, introducing it with: “So here’s a song from our hit debut record.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am a conspicuous fan of their work.  Nowhere near as daring, fearless, experienced or as brilliant as The Flaming Lips, but they are phenomenal in their own right, despite being increasingly formulaic.  While The Lips’ freaky 2009 magnum opus, Embryonic, will forever surpass anything Butler and his Fire will ever be capable of (Album of the Year or not), I remain optimistic about the trail they are blazing — cutting a nice FUCK YOU-shaped swath through the corporate music industry.  I’m happy for indie music.  In fact, any quasi-indie album that beats out pop nonsense like “Lady Gaga, Eminem, Lady Antebellum and Kate Perry” is a positive thing in my creased book.

There is no ulterior Schadenfreude here.

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