[27] The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

11 Oct

This is the first album that made me feel old.

Neon Bible by The Arcade Fire appears to be an amalgam of many artists I greatly enjoy, seemingly borrowing sounds and ideas out of whole cloth and presenting them to an audience who have never heard the originals before.

Neon Bible

Neon Bible











Each new track is a bouncy, catchy and extraordinarily layered slice of retro rock – here a Bowie vocal, there a U2 wall of sound, now the multiple drum attack of Adam and the Ants, and throughout the bleak lyricism of The Cure.

“Take the poison of your age
Don’t lick your fingers when you turn the page.”

I was very relieved to discover in the course of my research that the band acknowledges these influences and many more. Springsteen called them onstage to perform “Keep The Car Running” and they have invited Bowie to perform on their next album.

Imitation as great flattery.

Although the band is listed as a 7 piece, the liner notes document a small army of musicians brought together to create this enormous sound – strings and brass, a gospel choir, even a harpist. The depth of instrumentation, the mid-song changes of direction, the sheer scope of it all owe something to Queen more than anything else (even if the none of the vocals can live up to such a comparison.)

A highlight, though still typical of the whole, is “Intervention”. It begins with huge chunking chords played on a genuine church organ, building into a majectic piece, yet somehow jig-like in composition, for choir and orchestra before ending again on an organ chord. And all the while the lyrics take aim at organized religion.

Each song is similarly a mood piece rather than a discrete story song, effective and moving. Lyrics don’t tend to spell everything out for the listener, but there are a number of memorable and vivid images that emerge. “(Antichrist Television Blues)” for example paints a picture that should be far too disturbing to hear without flinching, but the corner of the eye imagery coupled with the driving upbeat guitar rock backing somehow turn it into a fun romp. The juxtaposition is fascinating.

One unifying trend is the impressive climax achieved in track after track, always followed by a light and simple opening, only to inevitably build again. It becomes exhausting, but in a satisfying way.

I’m glad I got to spend some time with this album and can see how profound an effect it might have had had I encountered it at a more impressionable, less musically travelled age. Today it is a constant reminder of the shoulders of giants all successful new bands must stand upon.

The Arcade Fire here manages to merge many great influences into a pleasing whole.

Owned before blogging?No. (2 of 27. 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 27. 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (22 of 27. 81%)

Next Week: Martha Argerich – Piano Concertos


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