By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Hype is a bitch: For every Stroke or White Stripe, there are a thousand Fischerspooners. You'll be forgiven if you don't want to drink the Kool-Aid. But when a label as distinguished as Merge Records sells out the last damn copy of a band's debut album, maybe the hype is deserved. So please don't hold it against the Arcade Fire that it rode Pitchfork Media's glowing review of its first record, Funeral, to a prime-time gig at last month's CMJ showcase in New York, which in turn led to a glowing profile in the New York Times. Take a listen to Funeral -- don't worry, Merge has replenished its stock -- and you, too, will become a believer.
Don't let the title put you off, either. If Funeral were a funeral, it would be an Irish wake. It's a bittersweet celebration, by turns raucous and somber, often within the same song. "Crown of Love" is a string-drenched ballad of adolescent love that suddenly explodes into soul-shaking dance-punk. "Wake Up" flows effortlessly from a fist-pumping, anthemic chorus into a delicate toy-piano bridge into an endearingly sincere early '80s pop beat.
If you're still not convinced after a few spins -- or if you still can't find a copy of the record -- see the Arcade Fire at Mojo's in Columbia on November 30. It was the band's live show that started the buzz, after all. Order a Kool-Aid and enjoy.