I Just Don’t Like Arcade Fire

I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. I’ve listened to every song on Funeral and Neon Bible at least twice. I’m aware of their remarkable critical success, and I want to like them, I really do.

But you know, I just want to give their lead singer a cough drop. I mean, listen to his vocal on this cover of “This Might Be the Place”:


As for the rest of their music, they seem like an overly-theatrical post-punk Bowie tribute band with some dubious vocals. I’m no musician, but is this guy remotely on key?

I guess there might be some lyrical genius there, but I haven’t heard it yet.

I claim no expertise in these matters, because I’m clearly disagreeing with most of the critics (not to mention music buyers) on the planet. They just don’t float my boat.

If the band floats votre bateau, pourquoi?


  1. I think you need to see Arcade Fire live to really “get it”. I listen to a live bootleg of their last Vancouver show more than I do their albums because it has a certain energy and urgency that really gets me exited about music. They just seem to have so much fun and it rubs off.

  2. Gill: I’m revisiting a previous topic, which I think is allow. Plus, it shows my dedication to trying to like Arcade Fire. Even though my early impressions were negative, I tried again. A few times, in fact. And yet, the results are the same.

  3. No, you’re not missing anything. I have perfect (relative) pitch and I assure you there are no actual intervals being demonstrated here. (Well, the backup folks and the band are quite musical, even though the “degree of difficulty” on this particular selection is about First Grade. And the young lady on the fiddle sounds as though she may have some serious chops.)

    That said, there are many bands that have overweight post-adolescent white boys making grunting songs that have been quite successful. I’m not sure that musical skill is much of a requirement, any longer.

    (OMG — I’m sounding just like my dad did about the Beatles. Sheesh.)

    Well, the kid does need a haircut.

  4. The Arcade Fire appeals to me because [to me] their music is epic. The songs are so monumentally filled with emotion! (My Body is a Cage, for example)

    Their use and combination of instruments (though at times, like the piano riffs on “Rebellion” are very simple to play) creates an effect which flows and sounds just like I would want my own music to.

    Phillip & Warwick have it right: to see them live is to really experience them as they are meant to be heard. While they played their set last May, it was as if the park was a single, breathing life form. The energy they put into their show reflected upon their audience was almost difficult to take at times. It was brilliant.

    I’ll throw the standard “diff’rent strokes” comment out there. They could really just be one of those bands that you’ll never like or understand, but millions adore. I happen to love them, for all the reasons already given and more.


  5. Fair enough. There’s something to be said for “you just have to see them live”. Many of my favourite bands are better that way.

    I’m afraid, however, that I’m averse to the group dynamics of the typical rock event. I’ve always been an enormous nerd when it comes to live shows, and really only want to sit quietly and listen to the music. If I get very excited, I might tap my foot a little. So I suspect that Arcade Fire isn’t for me live, either.

    I sometimes think that, as there used to be ‘crying rooms’ in cinemas for mothers to watch movies with babies, there should be ‘nerd’ zones at rock and pop shows. An area where people like me could sit quietly, confident that no one was going to sing along, scream, stand up, hold up a lighter or mosh in my immediate vicinity.

    The rock concert experience is one reason I’ve become increasingly interested in seeing live jazz. There’s rarely moshing at the jazz shows.

  6. The lyrics are okay, the singer is annoying and the background is good. Have to agree with you that I’ve tried to get into this band and just can’t. And is it just me or did those background singers get fairly annoying at around the 3:15-3:30ish mark?

  7. I too am with you here, and you’ve struck a chord with some of us, both positively and negatively. I received their first album as a gift, and listened to some of their other stuff, yet I find that now every time the Arcade Fire comes up on shuffle mode on my iPod, I skip it.

    They may be a great live experience, but the acts that appeal to me most may be wonderful in person, but also find a way to translate that into recordings (Midnight Oil is my canonical example).

    As a musician myself, I know that’s difficult to do in some cases. But I also find Arcade Fire another one of those excessively intellectual, artsy Canadian bands that I guess I’m supposed to like, or at least appreciate, yet like Darren, I don’t and just find what I’ve heard kind of cold. It’s sort of like a northern, 21st century version of prog rock to me.

    I mentioned that to my wife when we had both the Arcade Fire and Amy Winehouse play on the stereo — Winehouse may be a wreck of a personality, but there’s something THERE in her recordings that, to me, the Arcade Fire just lacks.

  8. Derek: I’m with you on all points. I do find it a little hard to ignore the off-stage antics of Ms. Winehouse (I think she’s the Janis Joplin of her generation?).

    I compare Arcade Fire with The New Pornographers, who I’ve also come to rather late. I quite dig the latter band, so it’s not all artsy Canadian bands that I disdain.

  9. I have a certain fondness for their more recent album, because it kind of became the soundtrack of July in Toronto, for me. Everywhere I went — coffee shops especially — it was playing. I don’t love them (my little sister does) but it reminds me of iced lattes in hot Toronto and that feels nice.

    But moreover, Darren, your description of yourself at concerts just made me all squishy with fondness for you. 😛 You keep tapping your toes. Next time I see you doing it I’ll know that inside, you’re tripping out on waves of bliss.

  10. Completely in agreement. I keep trying but I just can’t bring myself to like them. I still can’t put my finger on why though.

  11. Im a 3rd generation Musician, 3 major record deals, songs heard round’ the world, etc etc etc…

    Arcade Fire is the most creative band I’ve heard in years. What an amazing breath of fresh air from the “3 screamers up front, drummer in back” format we’ve been spoon fed for who knows how long. There’s so much more to great music/performance than flawless execution (which seems to be at the heart of your dislike for Arcade Fire) and while they don’t paint with a perfect brush, their music, like some wierd, yet beautiful impressionist painting, will take you places you’ve never been before, or haven’t seen in a very long time.

  12. Man, I don’t know what the appeal is, but I like this band. The mp3 of Naive Melody is the WORST vocal I’ve heard in a long time. GAH! Win sounds bad in the youtube clip too, but the energy of the band is infectious! I first heard of the band via the youtube clips of them playing with Bowie, and I was instantly hooked. They are just fresh, I can’t think of another way to describe their appeal. Nothing profound about the lyrics, but they lend themselves to being sung along with…LOUDLY. And I guess that’s just fun.

    Put it down to another band that’s more fun live than recorded.

    Nice blog, btw. I enjoy your writing.

  13. I totally agree with you! Arcade Fire has received such critical aclaim as being a great Indie band so I’ve tried to like them but I just don’t. I find their music very boring and lackluster. I truly don’t get their appeal.

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