Albums of the decade No 5: Arcade Fire – Funeral

Although death overshadowed the Montreal band's debut album, it was still one of the most life-affirming records of the decade

More top 10 albums of the decade

There is some debate as to how many of Arcade Fire's extended family members died during the making of the band's debut album. But irrespective of the number, death permeated everything from the title to songs about losing loved ones. And yet, more than any other LP of the decade, Funeral was shot through with a heady lust for life. "Children, wake up … before they turn the summer into dust," sang Win Butler on the thunderous Wake Up, as if reminding indie rock's risk-avoiding no-marks that glory only goes to those who dare to seize the day.

After the release of the Montreal band's debut album, many acts wanted to be Arcade Fire – Coldplay borrowed their stage gear and sound, while the Maccabees' album Wall of Arms was all but a facsimile of Funeral. Except that while it was possible to reproduce the album's marriage of frenetic art rock and orchestral flourishes, cobwebbed chamber pop and disciplined bedlam, no one could appropriate its sensibility.

Here was a world in which vampires roamed the streets, abandoned children crawled through tunnels to meet their friends, and sleeping was "giving in, no matter what the time is". Some critics, seizing upon the band's esoteric lyrics, sense of theatre and Butler's anguished yelps, likened the Canadians to early Talking Heads. However, Funeral is one of those rare albums bold enough to disregard tradition and its impact is still being felt.

Buy this Sunday's Observer for the full top 50 countdown, plus an interview with the winner


Paul Mardles

The GuardianTramp

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