Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music Morsels II - "No Cars Go"

As I've said previously, I am deeply in love with Neon Bible, Arcade Fire's second album, and this song is easily the highlight for me. It just pushes so many of my musical buttons - big, epic scale; on-the-sleeve emotions; theatrical style. It's got it all.

The song opens with a tongue-in-cheek sounding orchestral swell, almost the sound of an orchestra tuning up, over which we hear what sounds like a cheesy orchestra "hit" from an old Casio keyboard. This very brief introduction gives way to a very uptempo, driving and impatient bass and drum figure, aggressive and simple, that is ornamented by a quick rising and falling accordion figure. As the intro continues, the band shouts "hey!" at intervals. It sounds cheesy, but it works extremely well.

The intro, which at this point has a lot of elements going - guitar, accordion, violins, keyboard, suddenly gives way to the elemental verse, which is accompanied by just bass and drum - "we know a place where no planes go, we now a place where no ships go." I love this effect, of the many instruments and the wall of sound suddenly giving way to the fundamental driving bass and drum, only to have that massive sound come crashing in for the "chorus" - "no cars go."

After a repeat of this basic structure we get a quick bridge with some unidentifiable instrument, swirling woodwind sounds, and then a return to that main theme of accordion over bass and drum with high, seesawing violins. Which, in turn, gives way, to an ecstatic, repeating figure played by trumpet sounds. Which, in turn, gives way to a vocal interlude - with the phrase "between the click of a light and the start of a dream" repeated four times.

From here, the song begins to build to the climax - with the sonic elements slowly piling up until the lead singer, Win Butler, begins to shout out invitations - "Women and children, let's go! Old folks, let's go!"

Again - cheesy on paper. But on record, as the band crescendos and crescendos, with a big, ecstatic chorus joining in until it all finally ends, it's immensely powerful. The very simple lyrics - which seem to be about going away to a place where innocence can live unsullied, a kind of willfully optimistic and dreamlike utopia - combined with the propulsive, big, sweeping music work through some strange alchemy. We, the listeners, know that a place where "no cars go" - where we can live forever with our teenaged idealism unsullied does not exist. And somehow, through some subtle effect of the way the words are sung, the band knows as well,and knows we know. And it is precisely this combination of desperate optimism with an understanding of the fantasy of it all that makes the song so powerful.

Until Whenever

No comments: