Arcade Fire, “Crown Of Love”

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“When family members kept dying they realized that they should call their record Funeral, noting the irony of their first full length recording bearing a name with such closure.”

The quote above comes from the liner notes of Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut album Funeral, an album which indeed proved to be the beginning of many great things for the band instead of any kind of end game. Consider that they’ve followed up with two more classic albums, one of which, 2010’s The Suburbs, shocked the world by winning Album of the Year at the Grammys. Their new album, Reflektor, comes out in just a few weeks.

Yet Funeral still looms large. It quickly showed that Arcade Fire had the makings of a classic band, in part because they demonstrated the ability to craft not just memorable singles but also album cuts that stand the test of time. “Crown Of Love” is perhaps the most monumental deep track on the disc, an impassioned lament for lost love that keeps hitting stunning musical heights while the protagonist sinks to unfathomable depths.

“Crown Of Love” is one of the earliest examples of Arcade Fire’s innate ability to build drama throughout a song. It begins with a circular piano figure and a thumping bass drum. Violins come swirling in for the stately second verse, but by the closing verse they’re arching ever skyward in an attempt to transcend the heartbroken lyrics. They keep soaring as the band picks up the tempo in the coda, which sounds like a gloriously wild combination of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus.”

Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler follows the music’s emotional arc as he gets inside the skin of the woeful narrator. He opens the song clinging to platitudes about the ephemeral nature of romance: “They say it fades if you let it/Love was made to forget it.” This guy is clearly not the type to let his head override his heart though, so he writhes in torment on the emotional roller coaster: “The only thing that you keep changin’ is your name/My love keep growin’ still the same/Like a cancer/And you won’t give me a straight answer.”

Eventually, the back-and-forth exhausts even his most ardent affections; “The spark is not within me,” he sighs. That’s a problem, because that spark fueled his entire life, and he’s rudderless in her absence. Butler’s desperate conclusion: “You gotta be the one, you gotta be the way/Your name is the only word that I can say.”

We leave him wordlessly wailing in the fade-out, trying to catch a ride on the violins to some kind of catharsis. “Crown Of Love” proves that Arcade Fire was in top form right from the get-go, mastering the oxymoronic art of the exultant downer.

“Crown Of Love”

They say it fades if you let it,
Love was made to forget it.
I carved your name across my eyelids,
You pray for rain I pray for blindness.

If you still want me, please forgive me,
The crown of love has fallen from me.
If you still want me, please forgive me,
Because the spark is not within me.

I snuffed it out before my mom walked in my bedroom.

The only thing that you keep changin’
Is your name, my love keeps growin’
Still the same, just like a cancer,
And you won’t give me a straight answer!

If you still want me, please forgive me,
The crown of love has fallen from me.
If you still want me please forgive me
Because your hands are not upon me.

I shrugged them off before my mom walked in my bedroom.

The pains of love, and they keep growin’,
In my heart there’s flowers growin’
On the grave of our old love,
Since you gave me a straight answer.

If you still want me, please forgive me,
The crown of love is not upon me
If you still want me, please forgive me,
Cause this crown is not within me.
It’s not within me, it’s not within me.

You gotta be the one,
You gotta be the way,
Your name is the only word that I can say

You gotta be the one,
You gotta be the way,
Your name is the only word,
The only word that I can say!

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