Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Music: Keep or Cull No.10: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007)

When Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral was released, I immediately fell in love with it. In 2004, it seemed that the UK indie scene had grown beyond bursting point. Any fool with a guitar and floppy haircut seemed to be in a generic indie band, and every other song on the radio sounded like a bad Gang of Four or Libertines tribute act. So when Arcade Fire burst on the scene, with their finely crafted songs and unique sound, they really grabbed my attention: they were doing something different.

By the time Neon Bible was released, Arcade Fire were probably one of my favourite bands. When I first heard the album, I didn’t get it: the sound was bigger; the lyrics were more political; and it felt like they had been listening to a bit too much Bruce Springsteen. It was only when I saw the ensemble play in Manchester that I understood. The album, at least the way I saw it, was like a movie soundtrack for modern life. This might sound incredibly naff, but with its cinematic sound and politicised lyrics, this is the conclusion I drew.

Album-opener, the otherworldly ‘Black Mirror’, brings to mind some of David Lynch's darker moments. At points, it feels as though Black Mirror is about to lose control, the layers of instruments swirling and building to one of Arcade Fire's signature crescendos. This is a great opening track as it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album: you knew immediately that this wasn’t going to be like Funeral. ‘Intervention’ is the track for me that defines this album: 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 the album. ...

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