Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Neon Bible (2007)


1. Black Mirror 2. Keep The Car Running 3. Neon Bible 4. Intervention 5. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations 6. Ocean Of Noise 7. The Well And The Lighthouse 8. (Antichrist Television Blues) 9. Windowsill 10. No Cars Go 11. My Body Is A Cage


Hey, I’m back! For now! Mostly because I am currently unemployed. So don’t let them tell you not having a job is so bad. Because once you get tired of watching TV all day, and since you’re afraid to go outside because it’s summer and you live in Florida now and if heatstroke doesn’t get you, the prehistoric-sized grasshoppers will, you eventually find yourself compelled to update your website for the first time in like two years because you have nothing else to do! Hooray!

Anyway, Arcade Fire’s alleged sophomore slump album, Neon Bible, is less ambitious but quite a bit more tuneful than Funeral, and if you think that sounds like a bad thing then you can fuck right off and fall in a moat, thank you very much. Honestly I probably like it a little bit better than Funeral, a statement that probably will serve as a flashing warning siren to all Arcade Fire fans to immediately stop reading my Arcade Fire reviews because my opinions are wrong. But you know what, you dumb hipsters? I’m not afraid of you. I don’t give a shit how instrumental fucking “Tunnels” was in helping you get over your 10th grade girlfriend breaking up with you. Nobody cares. Arcade Fire play, like, Madison Square Garden now. I could gather all the people who only know “Ready To Start” but still go to their shows to take Instagram pictures and drink $12 Bud Lights and have them beat you up so bad. Come at me, bro.

OK, so this morning was actually the first time I listened to this album in full since I first intended to review it back in like December 2014 and, as I remembered, it’s good! Funeral has higher highs, no question, but I feel like on Neon Bible, the band put more care into their melodic craftsmanship, which often got lost in the muck of pure bombast on Funeral. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still lots and lots of dramatic sweep, barn silo reverb, and angsty emoting here. “Intervention,” for instance, opens with this preposterously gigantic-sounding church organ intro and continues on with a correspondingly overblown atmosphere – you can practically hear the band members puffing out their chests in the studio. But there’s a solid melody there, and one could easily imagine the song being stripped down to just Win and an acoustic guitar and it working really well – probably better than the Neon Bible version does. And perhaps the most surprising thing about this album, compared to Funeral, is that the band do occasionally allow themselves to take a breath and quiet down, most effectively on the title track, an uncharacteristically minimalist little two-minute meditation that nonetheless sports one of the album’s catchiest choruses. “Subtle” is not exactly a word most associate with Arcade Fire—it’s certainly well below “French Canadian” and “NBA All-Star Celebrity Game MVP Win Butler,” at least—but “Neon Bible” certainly proves they can excel at it. Elsewhere, “Windowsill” and “My Body Is A Cage” boast effectively gentle, ruminative passages, even though they both explode into bombast eventually. I’m not entirely sold on the popular yet mopey “My Body Is A Cage,” mostly because I’m not a 15-year old goth kid, but with “Windowsill,” I can hear the beginnings of the approach they would soon take on The Suburbs, with its acoustic guitar arpeggios and lyrics that are thankfully a little more self-aware and tongue-in-cheek in their angst than those on Funeral.

However, unlike on Funeral, the more uptempo songs are actually better than the slow ones! Hooray! I think this may have something to do with the fact that a few of them, in addition to being inherently hookier than stuff on Funeral like “Laika” and “Power Out,” have these earthy underpinnings composed of quickly strummed acoustic guitars and mandolins. I’m referring especially to the single “Keep The Car Running” and the pretentiously parenthes-ied (??) “(Antichrist Television Blues)” which, when endowed with this folksy foundation, are able to book along at a propulsive, even vaguely cheery pace and not lose sight of their grounding. That said, probably my favorite song is the decidedly non-folksy opener “Black Mirror,” which, while perhaps not as immediately catchy or anthemic as, say, “Keep The Car Running,” is an absolute masterwork of creepy engineering effects. The whooshing backwards noises and seemingly sourceless deep, low rumbling drones are genuinely disorienting, giving the sense that the band is playing underwater. Man, how do they do that? It’s cool as fuck!

Now, before I get too enthusiastic, I should probably warn all comers that “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” is fucking terrible. Especially the first half. Just imagine Regine Chassagne singing the worst ‘80s synth pop song in history and then on top of it throwing an absolutely hideous dissonant minor chord that makes absolutely no sense based on the key the song is in into the verse for no reason. Congratulations! Now you know you should not ever listen to this song. I would, however, recommend listening to the rest of this album.

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