March 6, 2007

Shortcuts—Arcade Fire's Neon Bible

With its first album, Funeral, Arcade Fire expressed the anguish and misery of the 21st century. The band members have not attempted to distance themselves from their brilliant debut. In fact, they could have easily been victims of their own success. However, the success of their first album did not make them complacent. Neon Bible is a tremendous album in its own right.

Whether it matters or not, the album borrows its title from the first novel of John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces, which he wrote at the age of 16. The album is full of lush orchestration on tracks like “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations.” The song “No Cars Go” is a vast improvement over the version found on the precursor to Funeral, The Arcade Fire EP.

Each listen of Neon Bible is akin to a religious experience. While despair has not totally retreated from the band’s consciousness, this album is more of a melancholy celebration. Each note on the preceding album was tinged with bitter tears. While that contributed to Funeral’s brilliance, it also aligned itself with a specific mood for the listener.

“Ocean of Noise” and “Black Mirror” are two remarkable tracks. “The Well and the Lighthouse” is arguably the most epic track on the album, following in the vein of Funeral. Win Butler’s howls in “Antichrist Television Blues” with lyrics about working class living cannot help but call to mind The Boss.

Neon Bible is a marvelous sophomore album from a Montreal band trying to escape convenient classifications. If Funeral conjures up the entire experience of death, then Neon Bible eulogizes its predecessor through its attachment and eventual escape from the clutches of the dark subject matter.