SNL Sound-Off: Arcade Fire Are a Talking Heads Cover Band Now
Live from New York, it's a small army of disco-loving, French-speaking, fringe-sporting indie musicians who made late night television history! The 39th season of Saturday Night Live kicked off in spectacular fashion, with Our Lady of Quick Wit, Tina Fey, returning to her stomping ground to host and hang with musical guests Arcade Fire. Lines were crossed in a way we haven't seen on SNL since Timberlake's last swing-through, as SNL got meta with "SNL Cast Member or Arcade Fire?," which had Fey needling the cast newbies and Grammy winners for looking like "hipster Paul Bunyon," among other snipes. For the first time in SNL's run--or recent history, anyway, as there's no way we're going through all 39 seasons on hulu to prove otherwise--the show segued into a full-on concert, with celebrity cameos (Bono, Michael Cera, Ben Stiller) popping up over the four songs that served as the season premiere's unofficial, on-air after-party.
See also: SNL Sound-Off: Alabama Shakes
The overwhelming reaction to Arcade Fire's most recent performance can be summed up in two words: disco and drugs. The Internet freaked out over everything from Win Butler's greasy, painted raccoon mask to the sparkly fringe on their jackets to the spastic dance moves of Régine Chassagne, and plenty remarked on how out-of-this-world the psychedelic, glitter-spackled setting affected their impression of the music. Whether or not they were too distracted by Chassagne's jerky shoulder moves or Butler's propensity for keeping it weird, Arcade Fire's Reflektor is now on the tip of everyone's tongue--for better or worse.
Up first: "Reflektor," the record's title track steeped in something leftover from the '70s. This is Saturday Night Live, not Saturday Night Fever, and "Reflektor"'s disco vibe made for a bit of a time warp that came across more tired than not. Still, they powered through it, packed a wollop and get extra points for introducing that crazy weird hologram chamber thing that Chassagne spent a hefty chunk of the number in. Disco may not be a universally adored cup o' tea, but it made for an interesting SNL spot, and a beautifully executed one at that.
Things got glittery as hell with "Afterlife," with Aarol Paul--who made a few meth-y cameos throughout the episode--gleefully picking up some maracas and joining them for the raucous performance. "Afterlife" showed up "Reflektor," making the title track look like a sleepy dirge by comparison.
And now, the virtual peanut gallery: everyone thought Arcade Fire were an acid trip realized or copping the Lone Ranger's disco steez, and everyone was paying attention. Here's what the Internet had to say about the official SNL clips, as well as the extended play that aired after the season premiere's conclusion. Here's the thing: IT WASN'T BAD. Arcade Fire purists may scoff at any release from the band post-Funeral and the distracting stage plot may have rubbed some the wrong way, but by and large, "Afterlife" was solid start to finish, a vibrant, full performance that sounded as strong as the dozen people playing behind it. As far as SNL performances go, this may be up there as one that rings true to the band's live reputation, in spite of its claustrophobic quarters here, and few acts have the chops--or the late night TV legs--to compare to it. (And few would take a sketch making fun of them in stride with the same sense of humor.)
Onward with the Internet chatter...