Arcade Fire - In The Backseat


Arcade Fire's debut album, Funeral,  is defined by emotional intensity. The ululations of "Wake Up" still make me shiver and bring me to tears. Many of the songs on the album were inspired by the loss of family members, but "In the Backseat" explicitly refers to the death of Régine Chassagne's grandmother. 

Régine's voice starts gentle and sweet in the opening lines as she sings "I like the peace/ in the backseat." As the song progresses, layers accumulate. "My family tree's/ losing all its leaves" hints at loss but the lyric "Alice died/ in the night" has the most emotional impact. Régine is not talking about a leisurely drive anymore, she's talking about life and death, about losing someone who steered her and guided her and now she is on our own, no longer in the backseat but in the driver's seat, forced to take the wheel. This transition from backseat to driver's seat suggests a kind of awakening, a transition from innocence to experience. Death has initiated her. Death has changed her from a child to an adult.  Régine's voice builds and crashes and, by the end, her singing transforms into a wail that conveys the heartbreak of losing another person and losing one's childhood.

I like the peace
In the backseat
I don't have to drive
I don't have to speak
I can watch the countryside
And I can fall asleep
My family tree's
Losing all its leaves
Crashing towards the driver's seat
The lightning bolt made enough heat
To melt the street beneath your feet
Alice died
In the night
I've been learning to drive
My whole life
I've been learning
I like the peace
In the backseat
I don't have to drive
I don't have to speak
I can watch the countryside
Alice died
In the night
I've been learning to drive
My whole life
I've been learning how