[15] Arcade Fire, ‘Everything Now’

ArcadeFire-2017

Long-cherished beliefs are under threat. We go through our lives convinced Win Butler has no sense of humour and then he raises the curtain on his new puffed-up high-concept album with the unmistakable sound of Benny Andersson playing Yvonne Elliman. Is it a subversion of pop’s sturdiest bedrocks, or of his own band, or does he just know how to rip off a tune? A couple of tunes. Good ones, and he does it well. Arcade Fire have always been beholden to “the kids” of course, so let’s see what they think.

“That’s a panpipe,” says Junior.

Advertisements

[4] Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’

2013-arcade-fire

Speaking of misunderstood albums…

No, this is ‘Reflektor’ the track, the epic they had to come back with once James Murphy was in the room. Maybe a three-minute pop song would’ve been a more radical statement, but as soon as they all got together you imagine they wanted to show everything they could do. Absolutely everything. Junior is fascinated by Regine Chassagne singing in French, but the moment belongs to Junior’s mum who wins the Spot David Bowie game. It’s not just his signature baritone; it’s the point at which a pretty smart kinetic groove turns on the trombone-honking thrills to confirm this is more than just the Lo-Fidelity Allstars rebooted. Which counts as a compliment in 2013.

[7] Justin Timberlake, ‘Mirrors’

2013-justin-timberlake

Once you’ve got over the initial disappointment that the intro doesn’t lead into a Steve Winwood 80s CD-rock wad-waver, you’ll find ‘Mirrors’ is soppy R&B at its crunchiest, capturing my girls hearts as they “Uh-oh” and clap hands right up until the fifth minute, when it starts to feel like Timberlake’s bent on soundtracking his entire six-year absence in real time.

The first few minutes is about as tight a pop song as he’s delivered this year, in a comeback that’s otherwise designed to make Arcade Fire’s Reflektor feel like a masterclass in 60s beat-group concision. I can’t get too het up about these grossly indulgent records when they’re creaking with ideas – and The 20/20 Experience is, some ordinary, some inspired. It’s better than heaving your sorry bones all the way to track 14 on an immaculately presented, identikit One Direction album. Everyone could use an editor, but some editors’ jobs are easier than most.

[10] Arcade Fire, ‘We Used To Wait’

Arcade Fire

How good it was to see the return of Win Butler and his cheery “You spilled my pint and I will have my revenge by means of snide humiliation” countenance. Just when you think you might be overwhelmed by the bombastic brilliance of the occasional Arcade Fire anthem, there’s always time to remember what a boorish bunch of curmudgeons lurks behind the highs. Not you though, Regine, you seem nice. It’s Regine too who comes up with the high here, sustaining the chorus refrain as cuddly Win goes off on his tangent. Elsewhere, ‘We Used To Wait’ is rather trim for an epic, vamping hard on the piano, initially threatening to turn into The Beach Boys’ ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone’ and introducing some hammond swirls that were probably intended to be a bit Doors but end up being a lot Inspirals. It’s a brooding set of thrills that tower over a largely forgettable (and perplexingly highly rated in year-end lists) album.

In tune with the jolly atmosphere, Junior looks glum and determined to read her Roald Dahl books instead.

[9] Bill Withers, ‘Lean On Me’

Bill Withers

As regular readers of Jukebox Junior know, I often find myself wondering, “What would Green Gartside say?” Today, I was listening to ‘Lean On Me’ and noticing how Withers’ vocal melody slavishly follows each note of the verse, and it reminded me of the Scritti Politti brainiac’s criticism of Arcade Fire: “The melodies stick too closely to the chord changes.”* Now, I know this isn’t exactly the same, but, well, what would Green Gartside say, I wonder?

I find those verses tentative, as if Bill’s shy about offering his shoulder. It’s sweet. This could get bogged down in sentimentality, but over all ‘Lean On Me’ feels sincere. It’s anthemic without showiness.

What would Junior say? “10 out of 10. And 10 out of 10 for the Cheerios too.” She’s seen too many Come Dine With Mes.

*From this Guardian piece.

[2] Los Campesinos!, ‘You! Me! Dancing!’

Los Campesinos!, ‘You! Me! Dancing!’

It actually breaks my heart not to put this at No.1, but when you’re dealing with the single of the century, what can you do? I’m going to plagiarise myself here – I reviewed this single for a venerable website in June, and nailed my own thoughts:
 
“This Cardiff septet (a Cardiff septet! How long have we waited?) throw everything at the wall and see what paints it all the colours of the rainbow and gives it a kiss for luck. ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, with every exclamation mark a necessity, is a joyful romp through influences as diverse as New Order, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, the Boo Radleys and The Mighty Wah! with all the poignancy, passion and pop they suggest. A boyish vocal shyly mumbles “if there’s one thing I can never confess, it’s that I can’t dance a single step”, but if he wigs out to the glockenspiel and thrashing guitars and drums like the rest of us, he hasn’t got a problem.”
 
A few weeks later, we saw the seven of them at Glastonbury and found that a whole 45 minutes of glockenspiel-bashing was a lot to swallow, but they’ve wisely taken their time over a debut album, which’ll come out in February – perhaps it will offer some light and shade. The good news is ‘You! Me Dancing!’ doesn’t diminish one iota with countless plays, so brimming is it with fantastic ideas. Single of the Year in any other year.
 
In the latest example of what will doubtless be decades of pulling the rug out from underneath my feet, Junior didn’t pay it too much mind. She promised she was listening to it, but it’s tree decoration day and, frankly, what do you think is more appealing to a two-year-old? Los Campesinos! aren’t quite the angel at the top – there’s more than one tier of genius.

[9] Arcade Fire, ‘Intervention’

Arcade Fire, ‘Intervention’

Is there an Arcade Fire backlash yet? Now that Q have put Neon Bible at No.1 in their albums of the year, I imagine it’s about to start. I mean, come on, a good half of it is what the skip button was invented for.
 
But ‘Intervention’ wears its overblown charms with justifiable pride. It fashions the opening fanfare from Boy Meets Girl’s cheese-riddled ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’ into something dramatic, something glorious, and piles headlong into a chest-beating damnation of church and state. Ridiculous. No strangers to pomposity, this most sullen (apart from the beaming, accordion-playing Regine Chassagne) of bands get away with it because of their profound well of top pop tunes.
 
Junior raises her arms to the sky for the organ’s opening notes then swims through the air like one of the eerie water babes from their stage films. We thought she was with her grandparents while we were at Glastonbury, but it seems she was there – squirreled away in a wellie?

[1] Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, ‘Gold Digger’

It’s funny, clever, catchy, singalong and groovy. It has chutzpah in bags. I mean, it kicks off with a Ray Charles sample and then has the bloke who played him in the film repeating the sample throughout the track. That must show chutzpah. Or it’s a legal issue.

We can’t stop ourselves dancing to this. Junior is having a go at the move that Kanye’s so pleased with in the video. You know, the one where he jerks back and to the side, elbow leading, as if a particularly appealing lady has just gone by at speed. You can tell that he’s practised it in the mirror countless times and has come to the conclusion that he looks pretty fly doing it. Junior looks fairly fresh too. Mum and Dad give it a whirl as well, and we become quite the coolest family on the block.

The album’s not as good as his debut, despite what the latecomer critics might tell you, but the peaks are loftier. ‘Gold Digger’ is the highest of these, and “we want pre-nup!” is the winning shout. I mean, it’s so romantic. Yet Kanye does still love her, faults and all, not caring a jot how jiggy she’s got with Usher and Busta. They’re fine upstanding chaps, after all.

That’s it, then. In the albums, Kate Bush edges out the Arcade Fire, but you knew that already. Junior’s looking forward to 2006 now, choosing a new theme for January and maybe getting a few of those requests out of the way. She’ll buy the Belle & Sebastian and Strokes albums, expecting nothing too exciting, and will continue pestering the Avalanches for new material.

Merry Christmas.

The Go! Team, ‘Feelgood By Numbers’/The Arcade Fire, ‘Wake Up’

Who chooses the pop music that’s put behind TV trailers or features on Grandstand, or used as incidental music on Supernanny and House of Tiny Tearaways? And is it the only job they have? I reckon I could do it. Slap a load of Zero 7 or Lemon Jelly on the property programmes, a bit of Embrace behind ITV’s Sunday night drama, no effort required. 2005’s TV has been ruled by the Go! Team. They can do jaunty, upbeat, ecstatic and simple pottering about. They might not be quite so suited to the melancholy side, but “pottering about” is the clincher for most telly. ‘Feelgood By Numbers’ is a pottering song – our first instrumental – and would do well through the arched window. Junior used it as a soundtrack for wearing a flowery Reni-from-the-Stone-Roses hat and staring at the new Christmas tree.

‘Wake Up’ was the theme for the BBC’s autumn schedule trailer. Actually, it might just have been an advert for those slightly sketchy Shakespeare Retold things. I was a bit disappointed with them. I was disappointed initially that I managed to record Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth and then record over them without watching them, but The Taming Of The Shrew and Midsummer Night’s Dream both failed to keep me interested, or even unirritated. Anyway, ‘Wake Up’ worked as the trailer. It has a bit of magic and wonder, and drama too, and it added to the anticipation. The Christmas tree won again, mind.