Thursday 17 May 2012

Finding God in Rock - Part 2

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.

I have begun a Spanish immersion program in Venezuela, and I am sure there will be plenty of material to share about it in the future. For now, I’d like to finish my reflections on the wonderful Alternative rock band from Montreal, Arcade Fire.When their third album, ‘The Suburb’ came out, I was a little slow to get into it. There was even more buzz around this album than the other two.

However, it was a very different sounding album, and I needed a few days to adapt. But once I did, I realized why heads were being turned: it was a phenomenal album.

Their music was as edgy as ever, which may make it inaccessible to many, but the thematic of the album eventually draws the listener into its world, and does not let go until the last song. As the months went by, I discovered that, not only did they receive yet another grammy nomination for best alternative rock album of 2010-11, but they also got one for best album. I could hardly believe the nomination. Nominating them for best Alternative Rock album made sense, and the fact that they had not won in the past was shocking to many. But best overall album? They were being held in the same category as Eminem, Kate Perry and Lady Gaga. It was all a little surreal.

For that reason, when I was on long experiment in Wikwemikong, Ontario, I did something I had not done in over 20 years: I watched the Grammies. I even bothered to learn about the other nominees. I obviously expected the industry’s big guns to take the award, but I didn’t care. Just seeing the band perform at a Grammy celebration was amazing enough! But the big moment was of course one I’ll relish for a very long time: For the third time in their history, they had lost the award for best alternative rock album, much to my dismay. I could not believe how little recognition this band was getting from the industry.

Then came the last award: Barbara Streisand, reading out the nominees – the cheers were much louder for Eminem and Lady G, since most Americans had probably not heard of Arcade Fire yet. Finally, Babs opens the envelope with the winner’s name, and as people in the audience are screaming out the names of who they think should win, Streisand stutters the winner’s name “ The sssssssuburbs.”. She and many others would be in shock. Even angry as we learned in the following weeks. The rational behind the anger was “I haven’t heard of this band, therefore they shouldn’t be getting Album of the year!” Even people like Rosie O’Donnell would embarrass themselves with these kinds of comments.

Independent of the Grammies, the haunting melodies and instrumentation of this album continued the work the previous two albums began of helping me be in tune with the presence of God in our world, especially in urban culture. The best example of this came a few weeks ago, as I was returning from a visit to the reserve. As the bus drove back into Toronto, I made a conscience (prayerful) decision to use the music from this album to help me connect with the spiritual side of Toronto.

So with the help of this album, I allowed the spirit of God to enter my spiritual eye, and see life as I wouldn’t have seen it before, as I received the spiritual energy this city had to offer. Regular scenes of urban life suddenly drew me in, as if they had something to reveal about the greater presence of God in us all. The music colored, highlighted and drew me into each one of these scenes and I was overcome with the Beauty of the divine. Strange, that a 9 person alternative rock band from Montreal could help me tune to the spiritual facet of things, and yet it still does and I’m sure will continue to do so for years to come!

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