By: David McMichael
You are presented with an opportunity: outside the laws of time and the rules of physics and space, you can write one sentence and send it back to a younger version of yourself. In your current, unaltered life, are you happy? Are you bitter? ashamed? lazy? content? What is the one thing your younger self absolutely must know to send your present life spinning in a better or different direction?
Arcade Fire’s new single, “We Used to Wait,” along with the innovative, interactive music video that you can (and really, should) experience at thewildernessdowntown.com, explores this question. The video opens on a figure sprinting through a neighborhood, streetlights on either side illuminating his frame but leaving his face in shadow. The figure is you and me, pounding and pounding towards something vague and away from something misunderstood. The piano plays a constant, pounding Eb that follows us throughout the entirety of the song. “We used to wait,” mourns Butler, Arcade’s front man, as a potent and unfamiliar mixture of regret and hope drip from every word of this frantic journey.
Two-thirds of the way through the song, you are prompted to write a postcard to your younger self. By this point, overwhelmed with the potential despair the song presents (“hope that something pure can last-“), you know that this has to be good. The words you write are planted under the feet of the running figure, who is now you as a child, and vibrancy and energy and growth and life explode from the ground as you sprint towards the wonder you hope you can see shimmering somewhere up ahead.
And all the while, the Eb hammers on, sometimes the focal point and sometimes simply flowing, only present in the background. Is this unchanging element, whatever it may be, a blessing or an obstacle as you are moving forward? Depends on what you write.