Thursday, January 06, 2011

Hope that something pure can last

It may seem strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
In old news: Arcade Fire promoted their most recent record via a near-ubiquitous website which invited the viewer to insert their childhood postcode and experience the video for the song "We Used to Wait" in the context of completely familiar streets, fields and houses. The song is insistently catchy and the marketing concept is unbeatable: here the sound is stamped on your brain along with the poignancy of ancient memories.

The song itself is about the letters we used to write when we were kids; that for me is the most resonant part, because in my teens, living in a cottage in the countryside, lonely and alienated and feeling as though I was a long way away from everything, the letters I received from my correspondents, many of whom I'd never met, were desperately important to me: Brian in Blantyre; William in Glasgow; Tony in Dundee; Lorna in London. Some have died, and some have faltered; some of them I met, many of them I didn't; some of them I'll never speak to again (for reasons that will become obvious if you read that post); some of them (the lovely Brian) are still amongst my dearest friends.

Arcade Fire occasionally appear to tread that fine line between mawkishness and meaning that Coldplay always fall emphatically on the wrong side of (superficially it may sound like they're attempting something profound, but the lyrics are utterly inane: for the best example, look no further than Speed of Sound). But Arcade Fire are real, and interesting, musicians, and sometimes they seem to be able to meld their music with words in a way that seems truly insightful.


Claire said...

This is where you and I part company on the subject of music: the instruments - and instrumentation - are always more important to me than the lyrics. If there's a great hook and the singer's voice doesn't grate, they could be singing gobbledegook for all I care.*

I love The Suburbs. To me, the music tells a story to which the lyrics are almost irrelevant.

*Clearly, I exaggerate slightly.

LottieP said...

I know what you mean, but a great lyric can make a song and a bad one can break it. Think, for instance, of one-hit Eighth Wonder. Much as I, at the time, disliked "Pasty" Kensit (watch the video, complete with ludicrous French speaking interlude, to see why), I had to admit that "I'm Not Scared" had the makings of a great song (it was written by Neil Tennant, after all).

However, and putting the risible video aside for a moment, what spoiled it for me was that she sings "If I was you, if I was you, I wouldn't treat me the way you do". The failure to sing the grammatically correct "if I were you", which would still have scanned, annoyed me beyond measure. (I think I need that tag, "I know how this makes me look" for my own comments.)

Claire said...

And I know what you mean, too.

Like I said to you on the phone, Books From Boxes.

Anonymous said...

you want classic music that stands the test of time...

LottieP said...

Thanks, Anonymous. A timeless classic - it fair brings a lump to my throat. A favourite of yours?

Anna MR said...

That was pretty amazing as a thing. Thank you for posting, Lottie, I would never have found it otherwise.