A few months ago, I gave a presentation on Arcade Fire and their music in my Sunday school class. While I had some ulterior motives — namely, trying to convince my fellow churchgoers to go out and buy a copy of Neon Bible — the primary purpose was to talk about how Christians should be looking at and engaging with the culture around us. Not in a spirit of fear or condemnation, as is so often the Church’s approach, but rather with eyes to see and ears to hear the truth and beauty that is being created out there. And Arcade Fire, though not a Christian band, is making some mighty powerful and truthful statements about our modern society and its tendency to alienate and commoditize — statements that we in the Church need to be willing to hear.
Which is why I’m so appreciative of David Dark’s essay “Click of the Light / Start of the Dream,” in which he explores the meaning contained Arcade Fire’s two albums. Concerning Funeral, he writes:
Throughout [Funeral], there’s a sense of generations having been handed a very bad blueprint concerning life, love, and meaning, up to their necks in false covenants; generations now trying fitfully to grieve the loss of wisdom, lament lost time, and gather together what goodness remains amid the risk of losing each other to vampires and a sleep epidemic. Think “Rock Album as Exorcism.” The driving conceit of Funeral is “the Neighborhood,” subjected to futility and yet stubbornly awaiting better days, even in its ongoing death-dealing dysfunction (“The power’s out in the heart of man… nobody’s cold, nobody’s warm”). “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” records the disconnect whereby one generation has grown so deaf to the voices of its own history that it can’t come up with names for its infants. The line of associations culminates in the sudden recollection of parents, sung by Butler like a caterwaul: “Then we think of our parents, / Well what ever happened to them?!?”
He then moves on to Neon Bible, the group’s most recent release (and still one of the best albums of 2007 so far):
So what is the Neon Bible of the title? I wonder if it might be our death-dealing interpretations of religious texts (“religious” in the broadest sense imaginable), the siren songs that say emphatically (without saying it directly), “Insert Soul Here,” only to swallow us whole. In an attempt to speak to this sort of thing, I like to write the following William Blake lines on the board for my students: “The vision of Christ that thou dost see / Is my vision’s greatest Enemy.“
Once they’ve pieced it together in their own heads, they’re amazed by the nerve of somebody saying something like “What you worship as the holy one is actually the anti-holy. You are exactly backwards. The God you fearfully try to love is actually no God at all, a false god or, in Blake’s naming of the false fear god, Nobodaddy.” Arcade Fire are dealing out this very brand of boldness. Win Butler has remarked that “this idea that Christianity and consumerism are completely compatible” is “the great insanity of our times.” And the music speaks to it. The music bears witness.
All in all, a wonderful article that had me a wee bit teary-eyed by the end — and instantly pulling up Funeral on my computer for yet another raucous, emotional, and spiritual encounter with one of today’s finest bands.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.