Review Summary: The Arcade Fire follow up their debut with an album that is even more grandiose. Although the songs are excellent, the production is great and the album is very consistent, it occasionally suffers from being too big, loud and dramatic.
Even two and a half years after its release, Funeral
is one hell of a debut. Certainly for The Arcade Fire
's release opened doors that the band probably never thought possible. It made fans of both David Bowie and David Byrne, got them on the front of Time Magazine, scored them numerous spots on television and even helped them gain Grammy nominations. Coldplay
's Chris Martin has even called them "the greatest band in history". Two and a half years on, fans are on the edge of their seats with anticipation for the new Arcade Fire record. And so finally, everyone's favourite band from 2004 are back with their sophomore record, Neon Bible
Following up Funeral
was always going to be a daunting task. After all, Funeral
often reached epic proportions, songs like "Rebellion (Lies)" or "Wake Up" being prime examples. In fact, one has to wonder how you can follow up such an album. In this case, The Arcade Fire have made the record sound even more enormous. Almost every song is drenched with reverb and sounds as big as you can possibly imagine. Funeral
's strongest point, however, was always the simple fact that it was an album of great songs. So the real question, at this point, is "are the songs as good as they were on Funeral
?" The simple answer is, well...yeah, they basically are.
, in some ways, is just the sort of sophomore record you'd expect. The band have harnessed their gift for songwriting and as a result, the album is much more consistent. The highs aren't as high as they were in Funeral
and the lows are certainly not as low. A few songs do stand out, but not to the same extent. As an album, Neon Bible
is arguably a grander, far more dramatic statement, which is a very good thing in this case. The songs have a similar sense of melancholy to those on Funeral
and while the lyrics are not exactly optimistic ("Working for the church while your family dies") or hopeful ("Now who here among us/still believes in choice/not I"), when coupled with the musical arrangements, they have a way of bringing an uplifting warmth to the listener.
The Arcade Fire have occasionally been classified as 'baroque pop' or 'what pop would sound like in the 1800s'. The idea certainly seems to have merit here, with songs such as "Intervention" or "My Body is a Cage" that make serious use of the pipe organ as a main instrument. That's not to mention the strings that are featured on nearly every song, as well as the occasional brass instruments. That's not to say that every song takes such an approach. Lead single "Keep the Car Running" is fairly standard indie-rock song (albeit with a great deal of stringed instruments) that, placed perfectly as track 2, is a beautifully catchy and (at its core) simple song. "(Antichrist Television Blues)" is similar and with lyrics about working blue-collar jobs, is one of the best Springsteen songs that The Boss never wrote. The highlight, however, comes in the form of the on-the-road anthem "No Cars Go", an old track from the band's early self-titled EP. While it's puzzling as to why they chose to include it here, it benefits from epic production, being one of the album's biggest sounding songs and sounding far more full of life than it did in its original incarnation. Not without some small problems, however, Neon Bible
's biggest failing is that every single song on the album is loud, epic and dramatic. It's a certainty that some listeners will find themselves pining for the simplicity of "Une Année Sans Lumiere" or "Neighbourhood #4 (& Kettles)". The big sound definitely wears thin when there's nothing subtle, simple or quiet to balance it out.
is another impressive piece of work from The Arcade Fire. It's about as good as Funeral
and features some truly wonderful songs; although The Arcade Fire have certainly progressed, Neon Bible
features everything that made them special in the first place, to even more epic proportions. However, when their second album is this grandiose, one has to wonder where they can go from here.
Extremely impressive arrangements
Too grand, epic and dramatic at times
The big sound is never balanced with anything quiet
Keep the Car Running
Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
No Cars Go
Final Rating: 4/5