Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
An album filled with tension, verve, and ingenuity that heralds their return in brilliant style.
After months of speculation and anticipation, endless column inches and unfathomable hype, Neon Bible has arrived. For the recently de-comatosed, Arcade Fire's sophomore album is easily one of the most eagerly awaited follow up records in recent years. Their debut offering, Funeral, has in the space of a few short years been elevated to 'classic' status, slowly but surely sweeping all before it. It's the epitome of a word of mouth success and it would be fair to say the contrasts between the release of the two records couldn't possibly be starker.
Opening track Black Mirror is an immediate indicator that circumstances of release aren't the only differences to be found. Darker and more foreboding than anything to be found on Funeral, one wonders how this ominous streak could have gone previously unnoticed. Not an immediately catchy tune, but certainly a grower, it introduces us to a more atmospheric sound than we're used to. It's a less immediate side to Arcade Fire that insists on patience, but one that rewards when obliged. This notion returns sporadically throughout the album.
The lead single, Keep The Car Running suggests another addition. Bearing more acquaintance to their previous efforts than much of its Neon brethren, it rocks along more traditionally than expected, blue-collar influences worn proudly on sleeve. This is echoed by the jangly guitar-led (Antichrist Television Blues). Intervention, driven in by a smattering of organs, could also have been lifted straight from Funeral, again proving that a degree of moodiness may have crept onto Neon Bible, but this is unmistakably Arcade Fire. From the initial eponymous EP release, No Cars Go makes it on here, reworked with the apparent production techniques now at the Montreal septet's disposal. From the outset, it has been one of their finest recordings and whilst its inclusion may not be altogether surprising, its adjustment is more of a detraction than anything else. Hey, call it nostalgia.
Win Butler again accepts the lion's share of the lead vocals. His delivery packs as much emotion as before, minus some of the urgency, but none more soothing. He seems in more reflective humour, in keeping with the overall mindset of the album. My Body Is A Cage finishes the album in fine style. Perhaps the overall highlight, it's another haunting effort. Grandiose organs and deathly drums suggest that for Butler, Regine Chassagne and co, the Funeral didn't end in 2004. It's a panoramic finish to another truly epic album.
Arcade Fire certainly haven't keeled under pressure. They've followed up what was considered by many to be insurmountable with an album filled with tension, verve, and ingenuity that heralds their return in brilliant style.