Arcade Fire: Wake Up

Rag-tag Canucks do blood, sweat and bereavement

Here we are, then: the gleaming jewel in Arcade Fire’s crown. Few bands in 2005 have proved quite so emotionally affecting as this Montreal-based orchestral rock septet, perhaps because no band has sounded quite so emotionally affected. You see, Arcade Fire deal with The Big Questions. Life. Death. Funeral arrangements. Violin tunings. And on ‘Wake Up’, they channel these questions into a rock symphony – yes, we said ‘symphony’ – that’s simultaneously sonically adventurous, emotionally harrowing and filled with real humanity.

“Something filled up my heart with nothing/Someone told me not to cry”, sings frontman Win Butler. And from thereon in, ‘Wake Up’ enters a masterful slow build, the guitars gaining a little more bite and the swooping violins a little more velocity with every passing verse – until finally, when the emotional ballast threatens to sink the whole vessel, Butler pulls out the devastating lyrical payload: “I guess they’ll just have to adjust!” Hearts swell to bursting. Shooting stars collide. The universe picks up the phone and calls an old flame. And this, bizarrely, is a cue for ‘Wake Up’ to morph into a version of Phil Collins’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, as played by accordion-wielding French buskers on a rickety Normandy pier. And it’s great. They dismantled our defences, and hit us with that sucker-punch? The varmints.