Friday, 7 September 2012

Music: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible album review

It has to be said that since Arcade Fire's début Funeral was released, not a week has gone by where the album hasn't found its way to my CD player. I have been looking forward to listening to Neon bible for a while, so when I actually purchased the album I felt a massive anti-climax. I was incredibly disappointed with the album, I listened to it three times on the day it came out and felt that the magic of Funeral had been superseded by something reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's mid-eighties efforts. Feeling let down by the album, I still went to see them play in Manchester, and I am glad I did. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the venue, or the maybe the alcohol that was in my bloodstream, but something clicked and the new songs sounded amazing.

My opinion of the album has changed since seeing the songs live. The album is a great effort, the songs are larger and more cinematic than the songs on Funeral, but this album isn't Funeral, and perhaps that is something that I was forgetting.

The album opens with the otherworldly Black Mirror, a song that reminds me of some of David Lynch's darker moments. The song at points feels like it's about to lose control, the layers of instruments swirling and building to one of Arcade Fire's signature crescendos. Keep the Car Running is perhaps closer to the Arcade Fire that we all know and love, a great tune and a great choice of single. Intervention is definitely the track that stands out, the use of a church organ sounds both over-familiar and fresh at the same time to create a song that is incredibly powerful. The album closes with the emotive My Body is a Cage, a song which is both heartbreaking and haunting, an excellent, if somewhat downbeat climax to a fantastic album. Lyrically, the songs act as a critique of institutions such as TV, the church, America, and war. They seem quite obvious targets, it is almost a cliché now to criticise America. It is only because the music is so good and the lyrics are so poetic that they can pull it off.

What struck me as odd about this album is the inclusion of re-recorded version of Us Kids Know from their début EP, only with added horn section and production so polished that you can see your face in it. It sounds amazing, but perhaps would have been better suited as a B-Side or released as a non-album single. A second album is not the place to be rehashing old songs, leave that for the greatest hits.

The main criticism of this album will always be that it is not Funeral. Neon Bible is one of those albums that slowly grow on you, it takes a little bit of effort to get into it, but it is definitely worth it.

This article was originally published on Leeds Music Scene in 2007.

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