Release Date: Mar 6, 2007
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Even in this post-rock era — when hip-hop has a stranglehold on the zeitgeist, country commands the big record sales, and yesteryear’s rock fans are easing into retirement with Norah Jones purring on the stereo — there are still things high-minded Young Turks with guitars can do better than any other kind of musician. Arcade Fire, a septet from Montreal, have established themselves as one of the world’s great bands by harnessing rock’s unmatched power for going big and broad and vast. On their new album Neon Bible, the songs gust and spread out, like huge landscapes hurtling into view.
In 2005, Time Magazine put Arcade Fire on its cover, beneath the banner headline: "Canada's Most Intriguing Rock Band". It's tempting to call that the most underwhelming use of a superlative since Princes Harry and William were dubbed the best-looking members of the royal family, but Time's headline writer had a point. There is something oddly intriguing about the Montreal-based sextet, with their onstage costumes and penchant for performing unamplified in the middle of the audience - an aura of the unknown that seems all the more remarkable given the current desperate shortage of mystique in rock music.
Review Summary: The Arcade Fire follow up their debut with an album that is even more grandiose. Although the songs are excellent, the production is great and the album is very consistent, it occasionally suffers from being too big, loud and dramatic.Even two and a half years after its release, Funeral is one hell of a debut. Certainly for The Arcade Fire, Funeral's release opened doors that the band probably never thought possible.
When Montreal's Arcade Fire released Funeral in 2004, it received the kind of critical and commercial acclaim that most bands spend their entire careers trying to attain. Within a year the group was headlining major festivals and sharing the stage with U2 and New York City's "two Davids" (Bowie and Byrne), all the while amassing a devoted following that descended upon shows like sinners at a tent revival, engaging in the kind of artist appreciation that can easily turn to a false sense of ownership. On their alternately wrecked and defiant follow-up, Neon Bible, one can sense a bit of a Wall being erected (Win Butler's Roger Waters/Bruce Springsteen/Garrison Keillor-style vocal delivery notwithstanding) around the group.
"Intervention," perhaps the best song on The Arcade Fire's new Neon Bible, sounds a little like prime U2, along with a string orchestra and a church organist, covering the best Bruce Springsteen song ever written. The lyrics mention so many sweeping and emotionally potent concepts - love, friendship, family, death, organized religion, fear, war - that you could almost just put some of the words in a different order and slap the song on the soundtrack to Saving Private Ryan, and no one would notice. Okay, I'm full of it: I haven't seen Saving Private Ryan.
Its title evoking sleaze, sin, and salvation, Arcade Fire's Neon Bible stares down the sophomore jinx with a pissed-off preacher's penetrating gaze. Whereas 2004's Funeral, which outpaced even Green Day's American Idiot and U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb for year-end accolades, was based around several family deaths that bonded these arty Montreal misfits with Texas roots (co-founder and general frontman Win Butler was raised in the Woodlands), LP No. 2 stems from tour buses, greenrooms, and hotels as the six (seven, eight, who knows?) postcollege friends became the toast of indie rock and wound up on CBS' Fashion Rocks with a bunch of Victoria's Secret models and David Bowie.