Neon Bible–Arcade Fire 

(Merge)

I never quite connected with the drama on this band's 2004 debut, Funeral, one of the decade's biggest indie-rock cult faves. But on this follow-up, the Montreal septet packed with American ex-pats turn their previously private agonies and anxieties public. Some would classify the content as "political," but this isn't about elections. It's about (quality of) life and (threat of) death. (Which often is what elections are about.) In the opening "Black Mirror," frontman Win Butler awakens from a troubled sleep to gaze into an uncertain future: "Mirror, mirror on the wall/Show me where them bombs will fall," he sings. And from there, he and his band rouse themselves from a restless night to concoct a sweeping, mournful lament about a world gone mad, before escaping into slumber again with the climaxing — though not closing — "No Cars Go."

Musically, Neon Bible builds from the dark, New Order-esque swoon of "Keep the Car Running" to the pipe-organ-drenched penitence of "Intervention" to a gathering "ocean of noise." Spiritual, stirring, grandiose, the band at first comes across like an indie-rock U2. But there's no Christ complex here. Butler's wobbly, human-scale voice navigates the music more like a David Byrne. And the music has an organic, homemade modesty. The scruffy, ragtag quality of the band effectively undercuts — or, in a different way, emboldens — the band's grandiosity. Maybe they're more like a young, middle-class Mekons.

Neon Bible gets bigger, bolder, more specific as it goes, peaking with the righteous, sorrowful, anti-American sing-along "Windowsill" (the refrain "I don't want to live in my father's house no more" morphs into "I don't want to live in America no more"), where Butler namechecks what he wishes he could reject: "holy war," inherited debt, salesmen at the door, a rising tide that could drown us all. Along the way, there's "The Well and the Lighthouse," a subtle parable about cultural (read: indie-rock) isolation, in which Arcade Fire choose the lighthouse and the responsibility that comes with it. Otherwise, they muse, "the ships are gonna wreck." — Chris Herrington

Grade: A-

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Music Blog

Jose Feliciano Plays Unannounced Memphis Gig

Hungry Memphis

Welcome back, Restaurant Iris!

Music Blog

Gillian Welch Wows GPAC

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Alpha

Intermission Impossible

In Praise of "Love and Murder" at Playhouse on the Square

News Blog

MATA Looks to Hire More Trolley Operators

Music Blog

Listen Up: Cruelty of the Heavens

News Blog

VIDEO: SUV Driver Swerves Into Cyclists

Intermission Impossible

Ostranders to Honor Memphis Performers Who Died During 2017-18 Season

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation