Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (First Impressions)

As the last few minutes of Tuesday tick away, I (or is it we? ... still haven't worked out RIB's pronouns yet) would be remiss if I didn't write a little something about Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, which was released today. I braved the bitter cold to pick it up from Tunes on my way home from work and sat down after dinner with it, listening once straight through as Jen curled up on the recliner next to me. I have now only heard the album once, so I am indeed a purist when I say these are my first impressions...

There will be all sorts of takes on Arcade Fire's sophomore album, but I think plenty of Neon Bible reviewers will fall into one of two extremist groups: The over-hypers and the inevitable backlashers. The over-hypers will say it's even better than Funeral!, while the inevitable backlashers will say one or more of the following: Funeral was a fluke, Arcade Fire is overrated, Funeral wasn't really that good, Neon Bible is a pale imitation, etc. The backlash is going to come as it always does, and it will fill those who never liked Arcade Fire - or those who did but hate that everyone else does now, too - with devilish glee.

Cleverly, I am skirting those and other categories myself by posting first impressions and not a full-on review. Still, as a relatively early adopter of Arcade Fire, I could easily fall into the backlasher group - if it wasn't for the fact that 1) I am thrilled that people have discovered and embraced this band and 2) If people do or do not embrace them, it doesn't affect what actually matters, which is the music. I think Arcade Fire makes important music, which should be heard and enjoyed, and I think Neon Bible is an important album.

Time will tell. As Funeral was introspective, about death and, even more importantly, about growing up, Neon Bible is worldly, about fear and about war and about America and of course about religion. It is, in my opinion, the first post-9/11 album to really capture the post-9/11 mood. Listening to it, I couldn't help but think of Radiohead's OK Computer, which seemed to reflect the spirit of the late-90's middle class teenager, moving through life on a conveyor belt, or R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People full of quiet rebellion, and, like Funeral, loss and new-found maturity.

I realize that's pretty lofty company, which is why I hate writing about an album so soon after first hearing it. I will be spinning Neon Bible quite a bit over the next few days, and months, so I'll leave my comments at that and let my thoughts and opinions develop as I go along. But I will state what is by now obvious: After one listen, I am very pleased. It's dark and rich and the lyrics are, with exceptions, brilliant. I agree with Geoff that Neon Bible's version of No Cars Go - my favorite Arcade Fire song - is at least up there with the EP version. If I had to level a criticism, it would be that Regine doesn't step up to the mic enough, but that's far from a dealbreaker. Released: Today. WORTHY.


Anonymous said...

"It is, in my opinion, the first post-9/11 album to really capture the post-9/11 mood."

What'd you think of TV on the Radio's "Return to Cookie Mountain"?

Matthew said...

i have to admit that i've never given any time to TV on the Radio, despite reading many glowing accounts of their music. the bits and pieces i've heard haven't grabbed me. but i'll probably get around to them eventually and then regret having not checked them out earlier. there is just so much music out there and so little time. i'm going to blame the Wii, but it's really all my fault.

Geoff G. said...

Of course, credit must be given to Wilco for releasing the first pre-9/11 album to capture the post-9/11 mood.

Nice review. If you like it now, it'll really grow on you.

Matthew said...

that's funny because Ashes of American Flags, etc. was going through my mind when I was typing the 9/11 bit. nicely put.

Geoff G. said...

I stole it from an NYT magazine piece awhile back.

I am Jack's totally unoriginal thought.