Last night I hung around the office under the pretence I had work to finish. In all likelihood I do have work to finish, but that wasn’t why I didn’t leave the office until 8pm. Don’t worry, I’ve not become one of those terrible city boys, top button and second chin meeting in a cacophony of stress, having no idea of what really matters in life. I am not one of them. I was at work until 8 because it is coming towards the end of the month and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I could hide out for three hours for free.
Why did I need to hide out for three hours?
Well obviously I was waiting for 9pm/9/9, the moment when all the enigmatic clues fell into place and the new Arcade Fire single and video were released.
Why did I need to queue up outside Rough Trade to buy a copy?
Well obviously it is because Arcade Fire are one of the few bands making music today that I care about.
When I first saw them at a very drunken Reading festival in 2007 it was like waking up (pun intended). People had described their live shows as being like a religious experience and I watched people who looked like they were possessed utterly lose their shit as they convulsed to songs from the at-the-time recently dropped Neon Bible.
I quickly became obsessed in the all or nothing way I conduct my life. It culminated with seeing them headline at Reading 2010 with my good friend James, travelling to Birmingham later the same year as James was living up there and tickets for their London show had sold out and then getting a tattoo of a lyric from My Body Is A Cage on my right arm.
My love has mostly been dormant since, by which I mean I just listen to the albums a couple of times a week, have The Suburbs on in my car every summer and look dreamily into the distance and dream of their return (not whilst driving – it’s dangerous).
That’s why I found myself in a queue of the hardcore outside the prestigious and regal Rough Trade East at half past eight last night, behind a German couple, who seemed perplexed when I asked them if they were at the back of the queue – that famous sense of humour etc.
For the last week I’ve spent a lot of time scanning through the clues the band have left online. Websites like justareflektor and thereflektors appeared from nowhere and we were all invited to be a part of it. It was the kind of chase you would expect from Arcade Fire, a collective never known for keeping things simple. There’s always intricate detail and themes and subtext. That’s why the diamonds spelling out the title inside of the chalked circle became a talking point as well as a hashtag.
To draw so much attention from a single is an incredible feat. There was a time when single releases were everything, when music was precious and limited. In many ways we are a lot better off. Everything is a lot more accessible. It can be streamed, it can be downloaded, it can be torrented and burnt and ripped and whatever else you crazy cats choose to do to limit the frequencies and qualities of the music you listen to. There was a time when we used to wait. There it is. That’s how it all ties together.
For Arcade Fire to have achieved this in 2013, that buzz and excitement about their incoming music is incredible.
The song itself, passed across to me on 12″ vinyl in the glossiest sleeve since Vince Noir’s mirrorball suit, is astounding. Coming in at just over the seven minute mark it is all you could want as a fan, and much more. It sticks to the Teflon coating of your brain and won’t be scrubbed clean. It has a different vibe and a different beat to what they have done before but it is undoubtably Arcade Fire. Draped in the imagery of the snippets and videos provided in the run up to its release it’s a triumph for the band… but what is that? Or more fittingly, who is that straining away on vocals in the last couple of minutes. Why it’s only David chuffing Bowie! on an Arcade Fire track. Well if that doesn’t just confirm what I thought I already knew. This album is going to be amazing.
By the time I got to the train station I was watching the Anton Corbjin-directed video, a black and white masterpiece with more confusing imagery, big papier mâché heads and Win Butler with raccoon face paint on. I don’t know why anyone would expect any different.
Needless to say I’ve preordered the album, and in doing so get the privilege of being offered tickets to their tour in advance of general sale. I’m excited. Arcade Fire are back.