By Nahed Elrayes
It is noteworthy that the first paragraph of this album review does not mention the album at all. Understanding that a successful critique should question the context of the work, Moore literally opens with the single line, “How did we get here?”, capturing the reader’s. attention with the first sentence. He then attempts to analyse the generational, locational, political and personal context to Arcade Fire’s acclaimed first album.
“Our is a generation overwhelmed by frustration, unrest, dread and tragedy…our self-imposed soltitude renders us politically and spiritually inert, but rather than take steps to heal our emotional and existential wounds, we have chosen to revel in them”.
This may seem vague and applicable to most periods of time – and most contemporary music. Arguable, the majority of modern music tends toward emotional indulgence, and perhaps a subliminal, post-sixties acceptance that artists can not change the world they are describing. Regardless, this functions as the ideal set-up to Moore’s mission statement of the album: “their search for salvation in the midst of real chaos is ours; their eventual catharsis is part of our continual enlightenment”.
In his attempt to explain titles and motifs, Moore aptly identifies this as an album that is political and personal- combining the confusion of the post-2001 world with the deaths of several band members’ relatives. Funeral “evokes sickness and death, but also understanding and renewal”, the neighbourhood “suggests the suppotive bonds of family and community”. Having opened with the context, then succintly identified the key themes of the album, Moore zeroes in on each song; the result is a review structure that is logical and entertaining, neither essay-like nor meandering.
This review is not a judgement foremost; it unveils interesting questions, posits theories, and adopts Alan Walker’s model of criticism as “the rationalization of intuitive musical understanding”. Despite Moore’s unusually high rating of 9.7, he focuses his writing on the blind spots in the listener’s understanding. rather than bombarding him or her with positive adjectives or shallow remarks on the album’s “catchiness”.
Finally, the review provides a lament that “we [critics] will always approach the sincerity of an album like Funeral from a clinical distance”. Moore self-consciously defies Larry Debrow’s scathingly depiction of the Pitchfork stereotype: pretentious, emotionally-stunted contrarians who “don’t seem to like music very much”. He describes the album as the culmination of a generational journey from chaos, to cynical apathy, and finally, to emotional catharsis – through this lens, the satisfaction of a teenage guilty pleasure like Funeral can increase twofold.
Dobrow, Larry. “Pitchfork Sure Is Cutting Edge, and That’s the Problem.” Advertising Age. January 24, 2008. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://adage.com/article/media/pitchfork-cutting-edge-problem/1.
Moore, David. “Arcade Fire: Funeral.” Pitchfork. September 12, 2004. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/452-funeral/.
Walker, Alan. “Musical Criticism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. October 08, 1998. Accessed March 08, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/topic/musical-criticism.