win butler of the arcade fire :: photo by Christoffer Kittel
Review written by dylan mckeever
Magnetic Fields – "Born On A Train"
Even though the vehicular motif of this song is the locomotive, I always picture a shiny white Cadillac driving over some bright endless rainbow (kinda like that one level in Mario Kart 64 -anyone know what I’m talking about?) with Merritt at the helm wearing his trademark deadpan-melancholy voice on his own droopy face. I mean, can’t you see it? Those twinkling synth-lines and sunny production carrying a song about loss and detatchment? Clearly, this is a song about contrast and it does very well in balancing its opposites.
magnetic fields + born on a train [mp3]
The Arcade Fire – "Born On A Train" (Live on KCRW 1/17/05)
On the other hand, The Arcade Fire manages to fully animate the song's central theme. Listen to how the accordion really stretches out each chord, how the rhythms of the violin and piano sync up, how the backbeat of the snare/tambourine combo helps to propel everything along. Listen, especially, to how Win's vocal delivery is both rusty and tired, yet resolute and unfaltering. It seems that this version of the song is more aware of its topic and more careful in painting its own portrait. Perhaps it's because the Arcade Fire were actually on tour during this recording, but I feel that that idea of weariness in always living on the road are really illuminated here.
the arcade fire + born on a train [mp3]
(Can anyone else think of more songs like the Magnetic Fields version, where the lyrics are in stark contrast with the music? Off the top of my head: Belle & Sebastian "Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying" and Radiohead "No Surprises")
dylan mckeever writes music and was raised by wolves.