Review Summary: What do a pipe organ, a military choir, a full hungarian orchestra, and tons of bombast get you? An excellent record.
Being “the next big thing” has got to be pretty tough. Its got to be even worse when people are calling you “the savior” of rock ‘n roll, the sound of the future, or any other over-blown phrases that critics have tagged onto the men and women of Arcade Fire. Riding high on the success of their debut, Funeral
, which earned them stage time with David Bowie and David Byrne, the cover of Time Canada, and even near platinum sales, the band now have to deal with sky high expectations from their fans, the press, and probably their record label. And then they’ve got to deal with Pitchfork Media constantly clamoring to have their babies. So for now, lets forget that Funeral
has already almost obtained Ok Computer
status in the Indie snob conscious, and lets just look at their follow up, Neon Bible
, as what it is: a very good, bombastic, album.
Holing up in a renovated church to write, record, and produce the record, the band no doubt benefited from the secluded setting, away from the hype. And when the album was finally released last month, they were rewarded with ubiquitous praise, a number one album in Canada, and a number two one in the US and the UK. Not bad for a band that has almost no commercial appeal. But then again, it doesn’t hurt when you’ve crafted a genuinely quality record. Maybe reviews, and name checking from David Bowie and Bono, really do sell albums. The question is, are these reviews right in calling this record so good? In short, yes. And don’t let the deceptively joyous single Keep the Car Running
fool you, Neon Bible
is heavy on the gloom and cryptic lyrics.
sets the tone for the record with its pulsing groove, apocalyptic strings and reframes of “The curse is never broken” and “Mirror mirror on the wall/show me where them bombs will fall.”. Its hard to resist the song and fits snugly into the records collection of heavy, bombastic tunes. Intervention
features a similarly epic arrangement with its massive pipe organ and walls of guitar noise. And when Win Butler bellows “Working for the church while your family dies” its hard not to want to throw your fist in the air and sing along, no matter how depressing his lyrics may be. In much the same way, albeit with a much cheerier vibe, is the reworking of live staple of No Cars Go
, which sports anthemic string arrangements and sing along choruses. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
is another of the albums biggest songs. It starts out as a simple, catchy song with distorted basslines and a vocal from Régine Chassagne before a sinister stomp and vocals from Win take over.
While the album is certainly heavy on the bombast, it also features plenty of relaxing tracks. Ocean of Noise
sports lade back guitar and a smooth upright bass line, even as waves of strings descend upon it. [Antichrist Television Blues]
sounds near Springsteen-like in its working class lyrics and Keep the Car Running
is probably the most concise song ever to feature a military choir and sixty person, European orchestra. Windowsill
’s minimalist arrangement and introspective lyrics gradually gain in volume until the morph into a aching strings and reframe of “Don’t wanna see it on my windowsill.”
So as the pipe organ grandeur of My Body is a Cage
fades from your speakers, there’s seems to be only one question left: is it better that Funeral
? No, probably not. Maybe, depending on the listeners tastes, but the general consensus will probably be no. But there’s another question: does it really matter? Once again, probably not. Arcade Fire have turned in a record that will, chances are, be hailed as one of the best of the year. Sure it might be a bit heavy on the epic songs and overblown strings, but it doesn’t stop it from being a very enjoyable, oftentimes catchy recording. Who cares if its not as good as Funeral
Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
Ocean of Noise
No Cars Go