The Arcade Fire

Whether it inspires you or just leaves you pummeled, the Arcade Fire's Funeralis a staggering debut. Over the course of just one album, the band bursts out of the rigid beats and chopping chords of its post-punk influences and straight into arena-rock territory; lead singer Win Butler's raw-throated bombast has even drawn comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. A curmudgeon could point out that almost nothing here sounds original, from the all-too-innocent '50s homages to the stark, pulsing melodies that play catch-up to Interpol. (Also, note to the Walkmen: Be sure to get your piano back.) And the second half of the album piles on so many crescendos that you'll think it's either the most exhilarating stretch in rock this year, or as numbing as riding the same roller coaster again and again. But there's nothing phony about the driving choruses or stomping bass drums that give Funeral's anthems of mourning the fervor of a college football rally -- even if the mascot is an urn of ashes.

 
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