Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Medium - Vinyl
This Montreal-based seven-or-eight-piece Arcade Fire show themselves capable of Big Rock, as original, and as potentially marquee-topping as TV on the Radio and Sigur Ros. Regardless, the intentional murkiness of these pleasantly anthemic New Wave dirges makes it sound as if the music has already reverberated through a crowded cement stadium.
Named after cult author John Kennedy Toole's first novel, Neon Bible is smart and subtle enough to present itself as a personal discovery for every listener, every word to be pored over by fans (as with those of Tori Amos, Pavement, and Radiohead). Surely, lines like "The sound is not asleep/ It's moving under my feet" have already been scribbled onto the margins of countless textbooks. Such words are delivered with less intensity this time, but no less import.
For vocal influences, lead singer Win Butler seems to have traded his '80s Bowie in for an '80s Springsteen, at least on the songs "Doubter Television Blues" and "Windowsill" (though "Intervention" sounds an awful lot like '80s era Go-Betweens). The kitchen sink arrangements include the use of an Eastern European orchestra, pipe organ, hurdy gurdy, and a military choir.
1. Black Mirror
2. Keep The Car Running
3. Neon Bible
5. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
6. Ocean Of Noise
7. Well & The Lighthouse, The
8. Doubter Television Blues
10. No Cars Go
11. My Boby Is A Cage
Another hugely anticipated album is Neon Bible. After the massive success of Funeral, the debut by this Canadian band, expectations were high for this one.
I finally received this after a delayed visit to the PO then waiting for the clerk to understand my real name was not Steve Strange according to my ID book.
A suitable darkly themed sleeve heralds the music within. Although this album is not called 'Funeral' or even 'Funeral II' the music within is similarily tainted with the depression, the occult, the other worldliness of the first album.
We start off with 'Black Mirror', a claustorphobic intense but reasonably reserved piece of darkness. A repeated simple piano refrain makes us feel as we're in a Hitchcock movie waiting for the attack.
'Keep the car running' is classic Arcade Fire. A massive clattering of drums and huge choruses to ...well perhaps not sing along to. But you could certainly bounce along to this at your local goth hangout.
'Neon Bible' sounds a bit like the Russian Death March. The one you used to hear playing when a Soviet president popped his clogs. Its really good though. Goregous strings on this one. Possibly a cello. And the vocals don't sound like the singer is bawling his eyes out.
This one's a cathedral classic. Massive organ. 'Intervention' is again similar to classic Arcade Fire. Except! Even Better!!! God I love this tune. And just in case it wasn't quite majestic and OTT for you, there's a whole Bulgarian choir waiting to join in. Only disappointment is the lack of a cannofire salute at the end.
'Black wave/Bad vibrations' presumably sung by Sarah Neufield isn a wondeful grower. Staring off as a very 80's indie style it switches most abruptly halfway though and utterly wrenches away any hope you might have had left. 'A bib black wave in the middle of the sea' Apparently. And there's some thunder too.
'Ocean of noise' starts out as anything but. One of the quietest Arcade Fire songs ever. Probably. Lovely horn section. joins in the string and vocal crescendo.
Things liven right up for 'The well and the lighthouse'. More familiar territory altogether with funny high pitched noises throughout. Sounds a bit like close encounters of the third kind. Chiming, driven guitar and bashed drums. Beautifully miserable duet. Its got it all. Except a massive organ. Then things slow down while we hammer in the point. Word by word, plenty of pauses for effect. 'res....urr....ected.....living in the lighthouse....if ...you....leave.....them....ships are gonna wreck'. Lovely!
'Doubter television blues' is such a lovely name for a song. Reminds one of 'The sound of music' or perhaps Sesame Street. no such luck. 'Don't wanna work'......'planes keep crashing'....when they scream, they make no sound'......'the black of a starless sky'....nothing tastes good'.....'little bird in a cage'....'Am I the Doubter?'. Having a good day are we?
'Windowsill' is a slow burner and seems to be about teenage blues. Or possibly early 20's blues. Lyrically it all sounds a bit mundane, but I guess its the everyday things that get us all down. It does of course build into a manic climax and ends up all terribly exciting.
'No cars go' will probably be as familiar to you as it was to me. Again its simply brilliant. Sounds a bit like we're in the army. Staccato drumbeat and joint shouts of 'Hey'. And we can all go, 'where no cars go'. A bit like the teddy bear's picnic.
All music suggests that this album is more world weary than the first and implies that this is a bad thing. I disagree. I think it suits them perfectly. This is a marvellous record. A contender for best of the year. Its more varied than the debut and on vinyl is more listenable too. Although not for its audiophiliac qualities. For such a young group of people they're remarkably depressed but it does their music no harm. Its affecting, exciting, majestic and thrilling. Its solemn but impressive. You do need this album.
An organ carries the final song, 'My body is a cage' in restrained fashion before a wall of sound hits us. All at funereal pace. Seems to be about shyness. Its a comedown song to end the album. The last line is 'Set my body free'.
Its well pressed and packaged. 2 slabs of 180grm vinyl. three sides with the fourth etched. (Not particularly interesting etch but etched nontheless)
It also comes with a code for a free download of mp3s of the album which is be done more and more these days of the indie labels. Matt cardboard gatefold outer with matt paper inners. Both inner sleeves are printed with lyrics and credits.