Mar 5, 2007

Neon Bible- The Arcade Fire

Neon Bible is by The Arcade Fire. This band is from Montreal. "Neon Bible" is their second record. Their first, "Funeral", melted hearts and fried brains and if you saw them live, did strange and beautiful things to your hips. These words are not opinions but facts. "Neon Bible" will be dissected like no other piece of music released in 2007. Here are my 2 cents worth. I will not be comparing this record to "Funeral". They are two separate artifacts of music and each can stand up for its own self. Suffice to say, this is important music.

Black Mirror
In someways a disappointing start to the album, for this my least favourite song. It starts with portents of doom and creates a mood, but I feel this song never soars in anyway. A fine song for most bands, but a little bit pedestrian for this group.

Keep The Car Running
This is a little better, a pulsating, rhythmic track, that I think would sound better live. Good to be sure but not great. It feels like they are trying to open up their sound, it works to a certain extent but doesn't give you those chills you expect.

Neon Bible
At first a quaint interlude, but after several listens, it grows in strength, quite touching in the end, perfectly positioned, because it leads to this-

Intervention (an earlier acoustic version)
The much talked about pipe organ comes in and you are listening to greatness immediately. An epic song that builds and builds and builds. When Win sings "I can taste your fear" it kicks me in the gut. Regine's vocals join in and this song soars. I think I would cry if I heard this live.

Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
A great dichotomy between Regine's half and Win's darker half. The first half is joyous before the song comes to a near halt and Win intones "there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea for me". A great song that thunders darkness.

Ocean of Noise
The sounds of thunder is a portent of things to come. This song has really grown on me. A slow, lumbering song that reaches down deep. Dark and ominous, it ultimately becomes optimistic as Win declares "I'm gonna work it out". The music becomes sunnier too as the band nearly breaks into Mariachi mode with a lovely crescendo of horns.

The Well And The Lighthouse
If Arcade Fire were to crossover into commercial hit territory (who knows, it could happen) this might be the song. A pulsating romp of a song, combining the best elements of the band with Win and Regine almost breaking into a duet over its catchy rhythms.

(Antichrist Television Blues)
I love this song. A testament to the frustrations and emptiness of modern life. It feels like Conor Oberst if he fronted Arcade Fire. This song has a beautiful momentum, building emotional bridges all the way to the finish until Win screams "I'm through being cute, I'm through being nice, Oh tell me, Lord, am I the Antichrist?!"

Second favourite song after Intervention. It builds on similar themes to the previous song. A slow strum leads to Win gently singing his song of despair. This contains a real emotional kick, but its rhythm is undeniable. Evidence of what this band does better then anyone else.

No Cars Go
A remake, but absolutely worth it. A live staple, this song is beyond thrilling. A song I never tire of, it has been fully fleshed out with teeming vocals and heart pounding keyboards and horns. If this doesn't excite you then perhaps you need to look elsewhere for your music.

My Body Is A Cage
I still am coming to terms with the closer. Unexpected in musical style, but that is perhaps a good thing. A final plea from Win for coming to grips with the world we live in. A quiet, emotional power envelops this song until halfway through the massive pipe organ takes over with the help of thunderous drums. Ah, I think I DO like it.

So there you have. I think this is a remarkable piece of work. Although it contains the group's talents for building epic songs that reach emotional heights, using their trademark sounds of violins, guitars and keyboards, they have shown real growth by becoming willing to stretch their sound and challenge their audience. And they do have a devoted audience because this band has built an emotional connection to their fans that is refreshing in this seemingly cynical age. I would give it a 9 out of ten. Its not perfect but it strives to be and that is a great gift to be given. Record of the year? Hard to say. Its early days yet and I have "Friend and Foe" and "All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone" giving it a run for its money at the moment.

You can buy this everywhere, but if you want extra special treats go to Merge Records.
Here is a summing up of other critics' opinions.
Pitchfork today gave it an 8.4, if that interests you.


  • At March 06, 2007 , Blogger Ian Pye said...

    I've listened to Neon Bible several times since I got it on Saturday, and my thoughts on the songs are similar to yours. Intervention is just great, and I love from The Well and the Lighthouse onwards. Black Mirror I liked when I heard it previously in isolation, but it doesn't quite measure up to the other songs when I listen to them all. The song Neon Bible is the other one that hasn't grabbed me yet.

  • At March 06, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Fantastic review Wayne and spot on with not allowing yourself to compare it to 'Funeral'. It's a completely different album and stands on its own extremely well.

    I've been listening to this album for ages ever since it leaked and awaiting on my deluxe edition in the post.

    The track 'Neon Bible' really does grow on you and I've been humming that theme for the past week. Although I love 'Intervention' for its theatrics, I do love 'Ocean of Noise' as one of my favourite tracks on the album.

    And I can also see Ryan Adams and the Cardinals do a version of (Antichrist Television Blues).

  • At March 06, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    not to be a bitch, but it's just "arcade fire," there is no "the."

  • At March 06, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Their first, "Funeral", melted hearts and fried brains and if you saw them live, did strange and beautiful things to your hips."

    Aha! Awesome review of the album Wayne.

    Black Mirror is an alright song but it's just a strange one to have up front I think. It's just a bit meh - you think it would make sense to lead with something a little more indicative of where the album was headed.

    I think Intervention is to Neon Bible what Wake Up is to Funeral. At least, it is for me.

    I have way too much anticipation about seeing this band live. I really, really hope they tour soon.

  • At March 06, 2007 , Blogger Wayne Massingham said...

    Thanks for comments guys. An interesting comment I heard was that if Neon Bible was a debut album everyone would be falling over themselves in praising it to the heavens, everyone wants to compare it to Funeral, but lets enjoy it for what it is. A great record by a unique band. And yes to a tour!

  • At March 07, 2007 , Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

    wow! wonderful review- as i'm sitting here listening to it, i can only hope that my review is as good as yours. cheers, wayne!

  • At March 07, 2007 , Blogger Bill said...

    I just got it today. For some reason I couldn't remember if I pre-ordered it or not but it never arrived, so I guessed I didn't and ran to the store today and picked it up.

    I've listened to it about 6 times already. I've got to say I'm loving it. I've had the entire album for a while, but refused to listen to all the tracks out of fear of ruining it, and it kind of did a little anyway. I'd heard 4 of the first 5 tracks, except "Neon Bible" which did sound much like a brief interlude at first. So I didn't think much of it until track 6, but "Ocean of Noise" really is incredible (even if very Springsteen-y), and then both "The Well and the Lighthouse" and "Antichrist" are brilliant tracks. I love "Windowsill" as well and the new version of "No Cars Go" is already my favorite track on the album (it was just about my fave Arcade Fire track before this superior version).

    "Intervention" is great in the album setting, as is "Black Wave" and "Neon Bible", you're right, grows on you. So basically, after a less than thrilling first 2 tracks, the rest of the album is amazing... like Pitchfork says, up until the final track. I'm not sure about it yet, though. Listening to it "alone", without following "No Cars Go" it's a lot better. So maybe it's a good song.

    Anyway, great review. Keep up the good work.


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