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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thinking about some recent tunes

Lydia recently posted her initial thoughts on the new Arcade Fire release, Neon Bible. I spent some time reading the lyrics and listening to the songs today. I didn't find that the album was as full of jabs as it was full of complele disallusionment stemming from the void of any place to look for direction. Who is going to reset the bone? The sarcasm and cynicism is often directed at the emptiness and failure of all of the things that still claim to offer meaning and truth.

It is not a very hopeful record. You’re still a soldier in your minds but nothing's on the line." "Hear the soldier groan we’ll go at it alone.

I guess you could read into the lyrics a conversion to atheism. They say, You’re working for the church while your life falls apart. Hear the soldier groan we'll go at it alone. The airy female vocals on "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations" cry, Ce sera un long voyage sur les vagues de l'oubli. A long voyage into nothingness, oblivion, the forgotten.

This album expresses sentiments very similar to those of the recent Of Montreal disc. The most catchy track by far, "Gronlandic Edit," starts with the poetic voice talking about shutting himself up in a friends apartment because all he knows are "absent minded" days and anxious nights. He then says,

I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god
But which one which one do I choose?
All the churches fill with losers, psycho or confused
I just want to hold the divine in mine
And forget all of the beauty's wasted

I don't think I need to comment on those lines. A few lines later,

All the party people dancing for the indie star

but he's the worst faker by far but in the set,
I forget all of the beauty's wasted

He seems to speak of himself and admits his impotence in directing anyone towards meaning and true joy. In the song "A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsvinger" he says, you turn the dial, I'll try and smile. The lines of another song on the disc say,

Throw it all in my face, I don't care

Let's just have some fun, let's tear this s*** apart
Let's tear the f***ing house apart
Let's tear our f***ing bodies apart
But let's just have some fun

This is the nonexistence of meaningful action.

The best question I think I have heard in a while is: Who is going to reset the bone?

Who is answering this question?


After thinking about these songs some more I've thought a few more things. I am a little more inclined to see the hope that Justin pointed out. It is just that line, Who's gonna reset the bone? Musically, the line stands out because of his change in pitch. The "bone" line seems to rise above the rest at that point in the song. His soldier imagery also shows a move from meaningless action, in the words nothing is on the line, to a kind of progress. Though this progress is lonely and expressed with a "groan," it still suggests movement.

Cool. Good music.

Hissing Fauna (Of Montreal) takes an interesting turn about half way through the album; it is sometime after the song "The Past is a Grotesque Animal." The second half of the album seems to pick up where they left off in the first where they suggest that we've got to keep it physical. This is followed by these lines,

We've got to keep our little click clicking at 130 b.p.m.
It's not too slow
If we've got to burn out, let's do it together
Let's all melt down together

This sounds like Edna St. Vincent Millay. Actually, after the middle part of the album which talks about crisis, drepression in Norway, disallusionment over religion, and a cry to the death of beauty, the album takes on very Millaysian (is that a word?) tone. What I mean by Millaysian is language with highly sexual metaphore and allusion. This doesn't surprise me because in an earlier song they make an allusion to Ulysses (a nearly unintelligible James Joyce novel).


Blogger Justin Alm said...

Hey Josh,
You're a rock star too. I like this post. I've been mulling over these very lyrics for the past 3 weeks. I prefer to interpret lyrics with a positive light. I hope the Arcade Fire lyrics are written to be a 'wake up' call to the listener. "Who's gonna reset the bone?/Working for the church while your family dies." I hope people are willing to change. As for Of Montreal, I appreciate his honesty. Many people wouldn't include this content in their lyrics for fear of offending someone. I understand his pain but I wonder when he's making social commentary or making a personal statement. Apparently he played a set nude in Las Vegas.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

i like that you look at issues of intertextuality in lit and music. i like your thoughts too, although i haven't listened to either album in question. is the line "who is going to help reset the bone?" from one of the Neon Bible songs?

10:16 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

hmm I think disILLusionment can come in the form of jabs, and I think the cynical tone in the Neon Bible album is reflective of this. I don't disagree that the CD holds an air of disillusionment, but I think it comes hand in hand with a negative view and some jabs.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Son of Man said...

The "bone" line is from the ridiculously catchy single called "Intervention."

7:13 PM  

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