Detail of a political photo-montage titled Appeasement by John Heartfield, 1939
So I'm not sure why this cover of the Magnetic Fields' "Born on a Train" is on the Jukebox at all, since I don't usually hang on to low-quality mp3's of stuff that circulates on the indie blogs (and I'm pretty sure that's where this Arcade Fire track came from). Listening to it now, I'm not that psyched about it. It's not that I buy into the pervasive Arcade Fire backlash - I was a little disappointed by Neon Bible when it came out, but I still think that Win Butler and co. are talented musicians with a lot to offer. They just don't really play to their strengths on this track. And the last thing I want to visualize when listening to the Arcade Fire is Stephin Merritt, seething and grinding his teeth in impotent rage while stroking a chihuahua.
The original version from the Magnetic Fields' 1994 album, The Charm of the Highway Strip, is a thing of real beauty, pairing the album's themes of highway travel and the undead with a classic pop melody and synth-country arrangement. Win Butler doesn't do the melody justice here, croaking melodramatically in a key that doesn't suit his limited range very well, and he doesn't even get the lyric right, flubbing a key rhyme at the beginning of the third verse. I'm sorry, guys - the Probabilistic Jukebox let us all down today. I'm tempted to purge this track from my hard drive for once and for all.
"Born on a Train" by the Arcade Fire