Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Arcade FireMontreal’s Arcade Fire are in one of those enviable positions in music: currently the can do no wrong. After their first album, Funeral, they had almost every music magazine gushing their praise along with U2 and David Bowie (who all collaborated with the band). In fact the only dissenting voice is probably Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers, who accused them of being privileged and pious. But of course Nicky, the Manics were never pious were they? No matter, Funeral was a classical influenced, rock album that took everyone by surprise with it’s mournful subject matter and songs that burst with life. Before Neon Bible was released, word began to circulate that this album would be more grandiose and deal with heavier issues (the end of the world).

Initially it doesn’t deliver on it’s promise. The opening track “Black Mirror” is murky and low-key for the most part, before it evolves into a string-led miasma. It’s a dizzying effect with the instrument’s swimming in and out of focus. The powerful “Keep The Car Running” makes me think of Bruce Springsteen for a reason (maybe it’s the auto mobile reference), “Intervention” made me think I was listening to a Muse album, with it’s bombastic organ opening. The closing track “My Body Is A Cage” has the same sound, but sounds downbeat and not as ultimately as triumphant as the earlier tracks, which is a shame as it’s the closing song.

Personally, I was really interested in the band’s re-working of their own song “No Cars Go”, a song that featured on their first EP. This version is faster and keeps the same structure, but the orchestral backing gives it a much richer sound, but sounds much more urgent that the original version. Neon Bible is a really rich album that rewards repeat listens, just like Funeral. Arcade Fire are one of the few bands to blend orchestral elements into their music without making them sound simply patched on for effect. The songs are grand but intimate at the same time and that’s a rare gift.

Arcade Fire – No Cars Go (live 2005):

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