I Kinda Like It: Tales of an Arcade Fire-Ambivalent Music Journalist

Categories: Fiesta!

Worse yet, the band waited nearly two months to issue a formal "apology" via its Facebook page, posting in part "To everyone really upset about us asking people to dress up at our shows... please relax. It's super not mandatory." Hm. This seems like the wrong approach, entirely. They said it was mandatory, but then they said it's not and then they seemed to imply that the fans were stupid for getting "really upset."

If the band wanted to inspire a sense of spontaneous community in fans by getting them to dress up and have fun, this was a whack-ass way to go about it. Here, it seems, the band could take some advice from the Flaming Lips. Instead of encouraging fun, AF tried to make it mandatory. It's hard to defend something like that and this is where the bands' aloofness again works against them. It might not seem fair, but people can only go on what you show them. And when all you seem to show them is crap like this, they'll respond accordingly.

The only, and I mean only, good PR move I've seen Arcade Fire pull in the last few years was appearing on Saturday Night Live. The song performances were okay, but the band members participated in a comedy sketch that showed the public that they might actually have a sense of humor about themselves. A few members of the band participated in a scene that was fully at the expense of their egos, with Butler taking the brunt of Tina Fey's ribbing. (She said he looked like, "Some kind of hipster Paul Bunyan. Could be a Civil War reenactor or some kind of Serbian basketball player," and that the band's old-timey instruments look "massively stupid.") Butler even did an impersonation of Robert De Niro on-air -- it was the first public display of levity or humor I'd seen from him in years.

I was laying in bed a couple of weeks ago with my dude friend and we were talking about the special releases for this year's Record Store Day. I was going on and on about how great R.E.M.'s MTV "Unplugged" recordings were and forced him to listen to a bootleg copy of a song that I had on my phone. He was patient through the song and then took a deep breath and said, "Every R.E.M. song sounds like it's trying to break my heart but it just never can."

As soon as he said it I realized that's how I feel about Arcade Fire: It is trying to break my heart but it just never can. I can feel the intensity but it just doesn't sway me. I think the band is good at what it does, it's probably just not for me. I'm glad that the generation just younger than me seems to enjoy it -- I really think they could (and do) like a whole lot worse. But with Arcade Fire, I just don't know what to think anymore. Am I letting my fondness for a dude I hung out with as a kid sway my views? I don't know. Music appreciation and tastes are so personal and complicated, even sometimes for those of us who get paid to have an opinion.

With this band it's not like I feel that I don't care, it's more like I'm just not sure how to feel at all. I have strong feelings in both directions. Am I missing something here? Persuade me either way.


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