Music Geek: The Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion”

See, I can look classy every now and again.

See, I can look classy every now and again.

Whilst listening to the latest episode of All Songs Considered from NPR — it’s on the decade defined — The Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion,” from the group’s seminal 2004 full-length debut Funeral, imparted upon me a certain unusual zeal; it is a sort of zeal, I find, that is only imparted by the occasional realization of a song’s power and the inner workings behind such power. Radiohead’s “A Wolf at the Door,” most recently, hit me the same way; for weeks, I diagrammed the structural intricacies in an attempt to understand why, exactly, the song just… worked.

“Rebellion”‘s triumphant A♯ refrain ringing through my headphones, I was struck when I realized that the piano backing the track, well, wasn’t changing. I think it was something I’d noticed before, and the song certainly isn’t a strange one to hear playing, as it’s held a distinct place in my listening habits since its release. So, my curiosity piqued, I listened more intensely, attempting to glean any value from that slightly warbly piano occupying my headspace.

However, it’s not the A♯ making the song: It’s the change making it. At the half-way point, there’s just enough of a break for the primary lyrical theme to shine before the primary musical theme makes its return. The same thing happens at various points throughout, but the flow always returns to that familiar piano.

So, then, what makes “Rebellion” unique in this? Through at least four minutes of song, there’s a reverberating piano echoing, echoing, echoing — taken on its own, it would probably be considered one of the more annoying musical ideas on the market. Taken in tandem with (A) the bouncy bass work and (B) the occasional shot toward another note or series of notes on said piano, that A♯ propels the song forward and gives the piece its driving character.

It’s not that this is particularly unusual of a musical characteristic, but it’s that realization that tickles me and has driven me to attempt to describe the way this song makes me “feel:” giddy. Oh, that’s it.

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