Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Neon Bible
Comments: Was it worth the wait?
In 2004, a band from Canada released an album about personal loss. It was an album bursting with intensely personal confessions that were oh so well crafted around tender songs. It was almost uncomfortable; listening to the record was like eavesdropping on the kind of personal conversations that are saved for late nights and hushed voices. But, this was more than a glimpse into a journal; this was a tragic beauty of a pop record, with moments of tender tension and cathartic exuberance. That album was Funeral by the Arcade Fire.
Three, almost four years passed. No new music. No leaked mp3s. Only whispers of progress on a new record. The band that set the indie world on fire and seduced critics across the board with its tortured début had fallen off the grid. Until now. The Arcade Fire’s second album, Neon Bible, is out.
Was it worth the wait?
For all of its success and all of its accolades, Funeral was not a flawless work. Like a lot of albums praised in the indie world, it had its throw away tracks, its moments of bloated grandeur, and its self important feeling persistent throughout. It was a very impressive record, but it was not always a good record. Neon Bible addresses these problems, and stands apart from its older brother right away; it is both an impressive record, and a very, very good record.
It is not perfect. Opening statement “Black Mirror” is too repetitive to reach the grand heights set by the chorus; it’s a song in need of a chord change. The collaborative effort on “Black Waves / Bad Vibrations” is charming, but neither of the half-songs is developed enough. It’s good that the two structures were combined into two songs though; the pieces wouldn’t be able to remotely hold up on their own.
The songwriting has changed. Funeral was an album about struggling with death, and finding not only peace, but personal salvation for the surviving. It was a sad album, but it had hope. Neon Bible moves away from such introspection, and turns its highly focused lens on the world at large. War, murder, destruction, violence, fear, and paranoia. These are the things this record is about. These are the songs of men and women who are afraid and scattered; these are the songs of the common man in a violent and war stricken world. If anything, this album stands as a testament to the abilities of the Arcade Fire. It proves that they can perfectly capture and articulate not only personal tragedy, but world-wide sentiment. This skill cannot be overstated or overlooked; it is the core of what makes the Arcade Fire so good.
But still, the question remains. Neon Bible isn’t as unified of a work thematically as Funeral (and, not for nothing, but I think “Neon Bible” is an absolutely awful name for an album).
Was it worth the wait?
Listen to the slow build of “Keep The Car Running”. With a tight, steady rhythm and harmonious strings, it is a top notch pop song, and is the rare breed of song with no climax; the song slowly swells, only to burst without fanfare and still work. The same can be said for the equally excellent “(Antichrist Architect Blues)”. Listen to the calm subdue of “Neon Bible”. It’s quiet and simple song structure is a defiant shout in the face of larger than life hymns of the rest of the album; it speaks the loudest by barely speaking. Listen to the almost psychedelic beach boy groove on “Ocean of Noise”. Not so much a song title as it is a description of the song; it is a work of Atlantic relaxation punctuated by slow, relaxing piano work that crests so tenderly that when it does crash, it comes as a shock. Listen to the crown jewel of the record, the mammoth “Intervention”. Strings, woodwinds, keys, drums, bass, guitars, and vocals are all introduced and layered on top of a massive pipe organ that provides the bedrock for this war-time anthem. On a record full of big pop ballads, this is the one that dwarfs all others, the kind of song that would even feel restricted in a stadium. It is so large of a song, that it makes me feel small to listen to it. All that can be done is to take in as much as possible, then listen again once it’s over. It will leave you breathless.
While not as unified thematically, Neon Bible is a better collection of songs. Neon Bible is a better album.
It was worth the wait.
Halleluiah, Amen. It was worth the wait.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Key Tracks: Keep The Car Running, Neon Bible, Intervention, Ocean of Noise, No Cars Go, (Antichrist Television Blues)
Worth The Money: I buy a lot of records online through emusic or itunes. Go to the record store and buy this one, packaging and all. It is worth it.