A brief history of Arcade Fire

Remember when they smashed a camera on Jonathan Ross?

As Win Butler and the Arcade Fire gang return with new album ‘Everything Now’, out next Friday, Jordan Bassett looks back at the Canadian group’s incredible career so far

The Albums

‘Funeral’ 2004

What it did: Introduced the band as a family-and-friends gang-cum-cult. So titled because several of the band’s family members died while it was being made, ‘Funeral’ is a towering and life-affirming work about dancing through the darkness.
Fun fact: ‘Wake Up’ was played at the start of Manchester City home games in 2006.

‘Neon Bible’ 2007

What it did: Saw the group convey the dread of post-9/11 America. One line on ‘Windowsill’ has aged grimly well in the age of Donald Trump: “I don’t wanna live in America no more”. Same, TBH.
Fun fact: ‘Neon Bible’ was recorded in an old Montreal church they bought then abandoned in 2013 when the roof started to collapse.

‘The Suburbs’ 2010

What it did: Stripped the sound back to something altogether more immediate – from the jaunty title track to the raw punk power of ‘Month Of May’ – and touched on the fear of growing up. Poor old Win – it comes to us all.
Fun fact: The album was inspired by a letter Win received from a childhood friend back home in Houston, Texas.

‘Reflektor’ 2013

What it did: Further mined the disco territory explored on the previous album’s ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’. If ‘Funeral’ danced through the dark, ‘Reflektor’ partied with a heavy heart.
Fun fact: That’s David Bowie doing the backing vocals on the title track, and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on production.

The Tracks

‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ 2004

Why it’s great: Have you ever heard a lyric more yearning or romantic than “I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours”? You have not, except from, obviously, “I like big butts and I cannot lie”.

‘Keep The Car Running’ 2007

Why it’s great: Rollicking acoustic guitar accompanies stomping percussion on this 2007 single. If you’re changing things, moving on, doing something new – this is your soundtrack.

‘Afterlife’ 2013

Why it’s great: It’s a bloody death disco! Lyrically, this track mourns the end of a relationship, likening its aftermath to an afterlife, a half-life in which the narrator is a shadow of his former self. Bummer.

‘Everything Now’ 2017

Why it’s great: It literally sounds like ‘The Winner Takes It All’ by ABBA. With an interlude that goes a bit Avicii, it’s a barmy and bizarre pop masterclass. Win Takes It All?

The Shows

Radio City Music Hall, 2005

Performing ‘Wake Up’ at this Fashion Rocks show, the band were joined by none other than David Bowie, who lent his vocals to a euphoric rendition of the song. As famous fans go, that’s not bad.

Coachella, 2007

A show so incendiary it has its own Reddit thread. By this time the band had amassed two albums’ worth of euphoric singalongs and this legendary set established them as a force with serious longevity.

Glastonbury, 2014

Having turned Earls Court into a carnival of mirror balls, the band gave the Pyramid Stage a disco makeover, replete with dancers from clubbing mecca Block9. Worthy Farm became an entrancing voodoo Studio 54.

Scunthorpe Baths Hall, 2017

The band performed in the round at this low-key 1,000-capacity venue in the north of England, about 8 billion light-years from Coachella. The Scunthorpe Telegraph called the set “frenetic but incredible”.

The Videos

‘Black Mirror’, 2007

What happens: The song’s ominous tone is reflected in its black-and-white video, which mimics the form of a German expressionist movie. And to think some say Arcade Fire are pretentious.

‘We Used To Wait’, 2010

What happens: You enter the postcode of your childhood home and using Google Street View the site mashes up images of your former ’hood with the band’s nostalgic music video. Bit creepy, bit genius. Have a go here.

‘Reflektor’ 2013

What happens: A glitzy mirrored coffin, that’s what! In addition, the band shine a torch on a man made of mirrors and drive a 4x4with a mirrorball on the windscreen. The song’s called ‘Reflektor’, geddit?

‘Everything Now’, 2017

What happens: Desert landscapes! Win Butler in the aforementioned cowboy hat! Régine Chassagne mercilessly beating up a piano! We’ve seen everything now.

The Stunts

Giving Jonathan Ross what for

Where and when: The Jonathan Ross Show, 2007
Win ended a particularly frenzied performance by smashing his guitar into a camera, reportedly annoyed that the band was forced to share a green room with otherguests. Keep the car running – taxi for Butler!

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Where and when: York Hall, London, 2017
Kardashian krew members Kendall and Kylie Jenner released T-shirts of themselves superimposed over icons such as Ozzy Osbourne, so Arcade Fire sold T-shirts with the ‘Everything Now’ logo superimposed over the Jenners. Talk about kourting kontroversy.

Being human Pez dispensers

Where and when: Reflektor tour, 2013
An enormous papier-mâché bobblehead of band member Richard Parry was stolen in Connecticut and the group pleaded for its safe return.

Getting surreal with cereal

Where and when: Dublin, 2017
An online preview video for recent single ‘Creature Comfort’ took the form of a parody of a cereal advert. The band then distributed boxes of said ‘Creature Comfort’ cereal around shops and bars in Dublin. Cereasly?

The Outfits

The early days: Dad’s old wedding suit

The band spent this period in baggy trousers and waistcoats, looking like that gamer kid who borrowed his dad’s suit for prom.

Pre-superstardom: plumbers

2010-era Arcade Fire dressed in blue boiler suits, ready to do your plumbing if the whole music thing didn’t work out.

Becoming rock stars: glam sparkle

But it did work out! In 2013, ‘Reflektor’ saw them don monochrome suits and sparkly blazers. The egos had landed.

Having Everything Now: Crystal Maze outfits

Think bespoke bomber jackets teamed with cowboy hats. Arty and a bit self involved, it’s Arcade Fire in a nutshell.