Review Summary: A vial of hope and a vial of pain. . .
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Review by Clumpy
This record made me buy an iPod.
Every morning before I depart for my warehouse job I prepare my music for the following day. Stuck in the stone age of portable CD players and jackets full of discs, I look over all of my albums and pick four or five. That's the magic number for a nine-hour shift.
Neon Bible inevitably accompanied me, day after day. While I didn't listen to it daily, the album seemed to bring a sense of warmth and comfort into the daily grind stocking shelves. When the album developed a scratch and skipped towards the end of the eighth track I repented of my procrastination and visited the Circuit City. A good quarter of my last paycheck went into a neat 30GB video iPod. Now my skip-free Neon Bible accompanies me every day whether I bring my CD jacket or not.
The Arcade Fire makes music that resonates with your soul. On this newest release, the ponderously-titled "Neon Bible", every track remains musically lush and full-sounding without straying from the delicate intimacy that made Funeral such a treasured eulogy. The band's indie sensibilities and confidence in their ability to find and cultivate their sound led to their decision to self-produce the album. This is one of the most personal albums I have ever heard.
From melancholy epic opener "Black Mirror" to the mournful, frantic affirmations of "My Body is a Cage", Neon Bible is a cohesive work, full of subtlety and sound. Especially sound. This album is impossibly full. Strings, guitars, drums, accordions, emotional vocal work (primary and background) and, most memorably, a chapel organ fill nearly every second of the running time. Many tracks explode into a glorious whirlwind of melodic sound partway through, like a warm hug in your headphones, only to pull back and repeat. The band wisely keeps the production a little rough around the edges, keeping even the most apocalyptic numbers human and grounded.
Much like the great Eels album Electro-Shock Blues, Neon Bible is darkly life-affirming. Despite the dark themes explored in the music, the album leaves you with a happy optimistic feeling. Even the desperate fear of opener track "Black Mirror" is melodic and epic, wonderfully dissonant and resonant, purely symphonious. Cathartic track "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" has a wonderfully disharmonic opening, before settling into an epic chorus. Breezier songs like "Antichrist Television Blues" or "Keep the Car Running" keep up a good pace while expanding on their sound. And the expansive gospel-meets-Springsteen sound of "Intervention" is a truly epic experience.
The Arcade Fire plays and performs with an almost spiritual fervor. This is a group that truly believes in their music. If this band does not outsell fellow Canadian corporate rockers Nickelback, there is truly no justice in the world.
A final note: Seeing The Arcade Fire perform "Wake Up" (a song from Funeral) with David Bowie at the Radio City Music Hall in New York was a truly moving experience. The crowd was visibly moved. Scope it on YouTube and understand the effect that true music can have on you.
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