Arcade Fire blasted onto the indie rock scene with Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs. They continued to put out records after that, but nothing really captured the imagination like those first three albums and they started to fade from view. Now, they are back with the lead single off of the first record in 5 years, WE. It resembles one of my favourite 2000s bands Stars, who embody the emotive vocals of 90s bands like The Verve but with an edgy epic nature that freshens up that 90s sound….note to self…listen to The Verve more… Anyway, let’s look at why this track is a return to form for a band who absolutely needed it.
Musically, this track runs the entire spectrum of Arcade Fire’s music. You have lush electronic / keyboard landscapes with come classic acoustic guitar in the first part. This really sets the scene for an epic track, which is underlined by some fantastic indie rock bass and percussion in part two. The bass line is really what does it as pushes the track forward with a relentless energy. The last few albums felt like the band was stuck in one gear with overly electronic pop mash-ups that did not capture the grandeur and emotion of their early work. I mean, Funeral with all of its dystopic themes had a musical weight to it that the recent records lacked. The Lightning I, II is back to minimal electronics and epic musical arrangements. Listening to the track feels like you just experienced an indie symphony at The Sydney Opera House.
Most importantly, Win Butler’s raw emotive vocals are back. At his best, Win resembles a cross between Richard Ashcroft and Bruce Springsteen. He has a delivery reminiscent of those great indie / Brit Pop tracks of the 90s, but he can get down and dirty with some raw notes that has you wondering how he can speak after a concert. It is his vocal ability to move from the concert hall to a street fight that really gives this track its heart. I simply love Win Butler on this track.
This single comes at a key time for Arcade Fire. They risked falling into obscurity after their last studio record leaned far too much into electro beats and flat vocals. Win and the band return to the passion and fire they had on Funeral and Neon Bible. Many fans have been hoping for a return to form for the band and I think they will be excited to hear this track. I am looking forward to the rest of the record and hope that this is a taste of things to come.
Listen to The Lightning I, II