The world sucks. Republicans are trying their best to lie their way back into power again. Oil is killing entire ecosystems in the Gulf. Global warming is starting to really come into its own. Some sub-human idiots from New Jersey are celebrated by everyone. It’s one day before the 65th anniversary of Hiroshima. It’s August and I live in a place where we’re excited if the temperature is only 102°, where no one has a job, where the economy is stagnating, and where earthquake recovery continues without any help from the outside world. Oh, and apparently the Mayans are coming. Really, is there anything good out there? Can someone give us even a peek at hope–even for a second?
Enter Arcade Fire. During their Madison Square Garden concert tonight (broadcast live online), my life didn’t suck–and I’m guessing that’s true of all the other people who attended or watched from a distance. And it wasn’t just the concert, either–though that was quite an amazing, spellbinding, celebratory event (watch it yourself if you want proof–it’s well worth your time). It was the unreal realization that a band like this isn’t supposed to succeed in America–yet they have, and this concert is proof.
While I was watching, I told my wife (who wasn’t watching–since they’re not Depeche Mode or Weird Al), “They’re all kind of ugly looking–so you know they’re good.” She concurred. I was exaggerating, of course–they’re not ugly at all (some are quite fetching, in fact). But they’re not Katy Perry or Usher, either. And here they are with a #1 album, selling out MSG, and blasting a concert online that shuts down Twitter. This is a band of Americans and Canadians and Hatians, men and women, multi-instrumentalists all, singing and playing complex, convex music that has caught the attention of teenagers and older dudes like me in a way that very few artists are capable. In a musical world filled with banality and self-delusion, Arcade Fire are more than just a breath of fresh air–they’re a hurricane that demonstrates why everyone else sucks (see: Radiohead at the 2009 Grammys).
I should add that I’m not even a particularly devout fan of Arcade Fire. I really like Funeral, and I’m beginning to discover their other music (including their new album, The Suburbs, which I’m listening to now). It’s beautiful, fascinating music, but I haven’t studied it or LISTENED to it to any serious extent to really have a lot to say about it (though Funeral is right up there with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and that’s the highest praise I can give an album). But I know quality when I hear it, and they’re quality–and their very existence as a popular band, a band celebrated and listened to by all shapes and sizes and ages, gives me hope that the world won’t suck forever.