Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire [EP]

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As far as debuts go, the Arcade Fire's seven-song introduction to the world will forever be lorded over by its behemoth older sibling, 2004's commercially and critically lauded Funeral. While the hundreds of people who coveted the self-titled EP prior to its 2005 re-release on the ultra-hip Merge label can rest assured that their copies are indeed original, those who are looking for a prequel to the anthemic, end-of-the-world bombast that emanated like a black-box recorder from Funeral are in for a treat. While there's nothing here that matches the goosebump-inducing electricity that runs through "Tunnels" or "Power Out," there are moments -- both musical and lyrical -- that portend the fireworks to come. "Old Flame" starts things off innocently enough with a simple melody tied to the even simpler pangs of new love -- "My mouth is full/Your heart is an apple" -- and "I'm Sleeping in a Submarine" extends that joy with a defiant chorus of "A cage is a cage, is a cage, is a cage!" However, it isn't until the third track that the record begins to take shape -- "No Cars Go," with its driving accordion melody line and unified shouts, sounds like the blueprint for Funeral's "Rebellion (Lies)." Régine Chassagne does little to escape the Björk comparisons on the sparse "Woodlands National Anthem," but her distorted, blood-curdling howls on the pulsing "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" are one of the EP's highlights. By the time the listener arrives at "Vampire/Forest Fire," with its familiar themes of pain both spiritual and familial, it's obvious where the band is headed. Like Broken Social Scene or the Flaming Lips, the Arcade Fire are sometimes earnest to a fault. While each of the seven tracks contained herein are fully realized, they are as unfocused as they are beautiful, resulting in an intangible, dreamlike atmosphere that reduces each cut -- no matter how deep -- down to a mere scratch.

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