This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.
October 4, New York: The winter I was 23 was probably the lowest of the last very bad time. I was newly alone (“single” is the descriptor, but “alone” was the feeling) after a series of nearly consecutive relationships lasting over three years. I wasn’t sure who I was or what I wanted to be when I grew up. But here I was out of college and in a job and paying rent and paying bills and maxing out credit cards and drinking in bars and staying out til dawn and well it seemed like that was grown up stuff to do. But there was something wrong, something inexplicably broken that I needed to learn to fix and I couldn’t figure out what it was. The winter I was 23 feels like the time I started to try to turn it around.
I recall the scene so clearly— wrapped in an old favorite coat with faux fur on the collar, sitting in the driver’s seat of a borrowed family Cadillac, driving through the night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, listening to Funeral by Arcade Fire. I’d get in the car, I’d begin with “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, and I would slap my hands against the steering wheel to try to beat out the cold in my bones and to try to beat out the bad sadness I couldn’t shake.
That winter I quit smoking. That’s what seems, in retrospect, like the moment I began to try and turn it around (it probably wasn’t for a bit after that). Quitting smoking was hard as shit. In Baton Rouge, bored and insomnia-ridden, I would drive to a bar where I would sit quietly and drink whiskey. And Louisiana bars, at the time, were pro-smoke zones. It was torture. But it worked.
This album is bigger than that moment, was in my iPod for far longer than just that holiday trip. Songs like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” and “Crown of Love” are still perfectly-remembered and satisfying sing-alongs today. I put these songs in mixes. I bought later Arcade Fire albums. I once saw Arcade Fire live with David Byrne and it was incredible (Byrne brought them on stage for a few songs, but then his big finish was “Crazy in Love” backed by both Arcade Fire AND the Extra Action Marching Band; holy fuck). Funeral is a fantastic album and we are lucky to have it. But it is seared in my memory for this one song, sung-along to terribly in the quiet cold dark of the Louisiana night with the beat of my palms against leather keeping time with the drums.
Buy yourself some Arcade Fire and sing along like you used to.