Thursday, March 01, 2007

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

“Sophomore slump.”
It’s a phrase that seems to be used too much in music.
Make an album too much like your first one, and everyone hates it because you’re “afraid to try something different”.
Make an album too different and you’re “bucking against the popularity of your first album…only doing something different for the sake of being different”.
You really can’t win.
Except that you can.
The Arcade Fire prove this on their fantastic new album, Neon Bible.
Their first widely circulated release, Funeral, was an amazing orchestrated pop masterpiece, featuring instrumentation that is not necessarily synonymous with pop music. But they pulled it off in grand fashion.
How do you follow something that was so different yet so popular?
Stick with the same basic formula, but tweak it a little bit. That seems to be the thought process in recording this album. If you liked Funeral, chances are you’ll like this one. There aren’t a ton of surprises here…just a great collection of songs.
I will say this: this is a much better album than Funeral, and that’s saying something. The songs that are amazing on this album are better than the amazing songs on their last one.
“Intervention” is the easiest one to talk about first, seeing as how they’ve released it as their first single. It starts off with a huge pipe organ, accompanied by the strumming of a beat-up old guitar that seems to have made the recording by accident (but in a good way). The song takes a minute or so to take off, but from the beginning of the song you know that something is going to happen…the suspense can almost kill you. It gets kicked up a notch or two along the way, but, by the end they’re in full-fledged huge orchestral rock mode.
“Ocean of Noise” is another song that immediately jumps out. It’s a slow, almost sinister song that sounds as if it was recorded in a basement somewhere. A dark piano appears from time to time…just enough to let you know that it’s really there. A storm makes some noise in the background. As the song continues, more sounds and instruments are added. In about the third minute, it erupts into a psychedelic wall of sound (or, “Ocean of Noise”, if you will), complete with Spanish horns wailing away in the background. Just an amazing ending to a great song. I would have to say that it’s the best two minutes on the album.
“Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” starts as a seemingly happy-go-luck, chick fronted pop song. Well, that’s the “Black Wave” half. Halfway through, “Bad Vibrations” comes in, and it seems to be about the darkest thing on the album (but that may be because it’s paired with the sunniest sounding recording in the bunch).
The closer, “My Body is a Cage” follows about the same formula as “Ocean of Noise”…a dark, slow moving song that explodes into a darker, psychedelic wall of infinite noise (it can fill the entire room if you let it). It’s an almost surreal experience to listen to it…like you’ve been transported to another world.
No matter how many times I listen to this album, the term “dark” seems to come up a lot. I don’t know what it is, but there’s definitely an overarching feeling of dread and doom while listening to this album. But, at the same time, I can listen to this album on a nice warm day with the windows rolled down and still enjoy it. It’s odd, but, when you listen to it, it makes perfect sense. It has something to do with the production of it. It’s a muddy sound. I can’t describe it any further than to say that. Whatever they did, it works perfectly for the feel of this album.
Please, listen to this album. I don’t ask much of you all. Even if you didn’t get into Funeral that much, or never really saw what the fuss was about. Listen to this album at least 4 times. It’s darn near impossible to stop listening to once you start.

Rating: 9.4

Essential Tracks: “Black Mirror”, “(Antichrist Television Blues)”, “My Body is a Cage”

Favorite Tracks: “Intervention”, “Ocean of Noise”
Check out their website here


Fosterface said...

Great review. Way to start off with a generalization centered around a catch phrase bandied about the biz, then note how this album bucks the trend that birthed said phrase.

Seriously, I liked it. I know the above statement sounds like a knock one may have against a Rolling Stone or Pitchfork Media review, but yours was really good. Keep it up.

Britt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Britt said...

Right on Dusty. This is an amazing piece of work. Apocalyptic and brooding but not hopeless. I never tire of listening to Neon Bible. The sound is a bit "muddy". It is best played LOUD.

Fosterface said...

You've got to email me what that 2nd comment said.