In many ways, Arcade Fire could be considered the first mature Internet band. They grew up together through the early days of web 2.0 when they debuted with Funeral in 2004 — and the Internet was coming into its own — positively blossomed alongside social media during the first half of this decade, and suffered their own share of missteps as the bubble got too big around them in 2017 with Everything Now.
Arguably their biggest shared moment came in 2010, when Arcade Fire teamed up with Google for “We Used To Wait,” which cleverly dovetailed listeners’ own personal histories with an interactive music video, bringing their fan’s childhood homes and neighbourhoods to a viral social media experience. It felt so fresh at the time, the promise of the Internet come true: there was an optimism at the time, at the last turn of the decade, that we could individually matter in a vast, infinite ocean of consciousness, knowledge, advertising, communication, sharing.
Arcade Fire is one of this decade’s most important bands not necessarily because their songs are good (though some are undeniably great), but because of how they’ve positioned themselves at the intersection of indie rock and arena rock; at the intersection of nostalgia for an extremely recent past and looking ahead to the near future; at the intersection of music, technology and our place among it all.
For all of the band’s highbrow art posturing, Win Butler’s esoteric mandate to connect with millions in truth in a way only enormous artists can conceive, Arcade Fire feels like a band that can be intimate and worldwide at the same time. Arcade Fire is us, even while we are just one hooting and hollering voice in a sea of 50,000 at some festival somewhere that exists, more than anything, to be shared online with 50 million more.
This is the intersection where Arcade Fire thrives, where they managed to step across the threshold that separates “big” band from “era-defining” band. Particularly for the Millennial generation that grew up alongside the band (and the Internet; we’re the last generation to remember a time without being infinitely connected), Arcade Fire emerged as a band that we can hold onto. Their unabashed use of nostalgia for our own imagined childhoods across their catalogue mirrors our own desires to look back on the late 20th Century as the last decades of relative peace and stability.
As the 2010s come to a close, the world seems like it’s burning more than ever: climate change seems inevitably and apocalyptic; uprisings in Chile, Iran, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Ecuador feel like democracy and freedom are on their last legs; and populist right-wing parties, led by Trump’s lawless and chaotic presidency, sow fear and discontent as tools to further hoard the ruling class’ power and wealth.
Among it all, Arcade Fire continue to stand as an optimist’s band where love, community, art and pure technology can triumph. We may be caught in an uncertain transition period, but there’s still a beating heart inside that can dance to “Reflektor,” that can pick up a call to arms on “Put Your Money on Me.” And, universalists that they are, Arcade Fire continue to bet that you’ll join the parade and find yourself at your best at the swirling intersection of all their bodies.