Soundchecks Music Reviews
review by James A. Stewart
Classic is an overused euphemism when it comes to music. In the current climate where bands scarcely out of school are headlining major festivals on the back of albums laden with three-chord pop tunes, it is refreshing, and moreover exciting, to see a band as refined as Montreal's Arcade Fire back with a second album. Neon Bible is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the 2005's Funeral, an album so good that if you were to steal it the police would release you on grounds of great taste.
Neon Bible stands on its own as a wonderful piece of music. The same haunting lyrics are present throughout, with Win Butler's voice a homage to many a 1980s' front-man. However, one of the greatest strengths of Arcade Fire is how hard it is to pigeonhole them. Some would call them alternative, others perhaps indie - none of this matters when they are simply excellent.
Their willingness to experiment with various instruments turns the most basic verse-chorus tune into something of an epic; Intervention is Neon Bible's answer to Lies from its predecessor, and it offers a thumping track with layer upon layer of instrumentation. As a band, Arcade Fire have a penchant for the melodramatic that splits opinion, some see them as self-righteous, others as the saviours of indie music. Clearly they are developing their style to maturity, with Neon Bible a rather more upbeat and extrovert offering, and one that is arguably more pleasing on the ear than Funeral. It is easily listenable from start to finish and a trio of tracks toward the end of the album present a toe-tapping patch that belies the enormity of the lyric content. We are brought back down to earth when My Body Is A Cage then brings the album to a morbid close, an allusion to a living death.
The guitar work is highly imaginative, and the band holds true to their backs-to-the-wall attitude to world affairs. A point not lost their critics and fans alike. As with Funeral, organs, strings and choirs adorn Neon Bible, almost like the feng shui furnishing that is missing from many indie albums today. It is easy to see why they haven't tasted the chart success of The Killers or even Arctic Monkeys; they are a more refined taste. For a group such as Arcade Fire sometimes the palate needs educating. I once said the same thing about Guinness and Czech beer. I now regard them as classics, perhaps one day I will do the same for Neon Bible.
for PIGASUS Press