Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
How easy is it to totally dismantle The Arcade Fire’s notable talents? Fairly easy, when you consider how they’ve managed to go from virtual unknowns to receiving kudos from David Bowie and David Byrne, hanging with Bono, tactfully lugging their equipment to the lobby of majestic venues to play encores while the crowd’s filing out, and to smash acoustic guitars on live television (albeit with some difficulty) while promoting an already heavily-hyped sophomore release. These things make it easy for non-believers (and several subscribers) to watch with a secret desire to see these Canadians fail miserably.
Perhaps the band foreshadowed the backlash for Neon Bible when they penned “Nothing lasts forever that’s the way it’s gonna be/There’s a big black wave in the middle of the sea…for me” (“Black Wave”), or perhaps it’s the prose of a band that’s struggling to find its footing after the surprise success of their debut.
Whatever their headspace is at this point, Neon Bible ultimately points to the sullen reality that their own neurosis is merely a reflection of everyone else’s neurosis too; from contemplating a second album to the deeper subject of living in a world of fear (“Don’t want to work in the building downtown/I don’t know what I’m gonna do/Cuz the planes keep crashing over us, two by two”-“Antichrist Television Blues”), the album perfectly captures the trepidation that is the Bush II years.
9/11 and the anxiety it created in America is written all over this record. From the paranoia in the aforementioned “Antichrist Television Blues,” to the realization “I don’t want to live with my Father’s debt/You can’t forgive what you can’t forget….I don’t want to live in America no more” (“Windowsill”), every apprehensive word is beautifully complimented with epic arrangements.
The Arcade Fire don’t offer a lot of solutions to these bitter years, so don’t go looking for answers here. Instead, they provide a very clear assessment of the curious mindset of our times (“You take what they give you/And you keep it inside” -“Intervention”) while meticulously heading towards the boiling point in their organic instrumentation without spilling over the top. This manages to create a whole other level of tense emotion, something that wouldn’t have been achieve if frontman Win Butler would have finally gotten to the point where he, ahem, decided to violently execute his acoustic guitar.
The remake of “No Cars Go” manages to sidetrack what would have been a perfectly sequences album; it’s a strange inclusion to begin with and it sticks out like a sore thumb. The only rational I can come up with for including it was to bring a sense of relief to an otherwise predominantly bleak album.
What the Arcade Fire should have considered was how beautiful their dismal landscape was to begin with. And if fans (and enemies) can get past the unattractive hype that’s led up to the release of Neon Bible and get around the unsightly themes that the record is based on, they will find a release that may very well be a contender for album of the year.