Of course, Neil Young is a fighter and revolutionary, too. He loves throwing punches so much that American good ol' boys Lynyrd Skynyrd famously punched back on "Sweet Home Alabama." But Young is a "Canadian musician" only in the most literal sense. Since founding Buffalo Springfield in mid-1960s California, Young has always written and performed in the American idiom — as an American, for Americans, usually in the guise of a hippie-cowboy wanderer. He lives in California, and his social activism is chiefly targeted on our soil. These facts don't exclude him from the greatest-ever-Canadian-rocker debate, but I feel they give Arcade Fire that all-important "leg up."

In terms of intrinsic Canadian-ness, one could make a much better case for The Tragically Hip, a blues-tinged alt-rock band from Ontario that has enjoyed tremendous commercial success in Canada yet is largely unknown in the States. I think this fact is reassuring to Canadians on some level. It proves that Canada can anoint rock stars independently and support a band that appeals specifically — maybe even exclusively — to Canadians. It's also likely that Canadians feel reinforced by "The Hip," whose sardonic, observant style (they sound like an earthier R.E.M.) seems to reflect the idealized Canadian national self-image. But is that a good thing, in the calculus of greatness? Bruce Springsteen is unquestionably a titan of American rock, and one who reinforces a specifically American masculinity. But is he a chain-mover? Like The Tragically Hip, he's more of a placeholder.

No one can say that about Arcade Fire, even if their latest and current album, The Suburbs, at times feels stultified by nostalgia. They're still a gleaming emblem of ambition and visionary discontent in the land of Alanis and well-funded social services, and clear successors to U2 as carriers of the global superstar/crusader mantle.

As a certain Canadian rock pioneer once put it: "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

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3 comments
Jonathan
Jonathan

Hahahahahahaha, nice try. Rush is the greatest Canadian band ever -- period. EVER. No band will ever come close. Give me a break on the Arcade Fire...LOL. RUSH.

Igormash
Igormash

Max Webster and the Guess Who are the only two bands from Canada that anyone needs to ever know a-boot!!

Eric
Eric

we'll see in 15 years. I do think it's too early to claim Arcade Fire the best Canadian band of all time. As much as I love their music...it's too soon.

 
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