While recording a live Arcade Fire show for NPR’s “All Songs Considered,” Bob Boilen remarks (paraphrased) that the members of Arcade Fire are not celebrities or rock stars, they are just incredible musicians. This statement is confirmed in Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible.” The songs are dark and somewhat mysterious and seem to come from a nervous cavity inside of songwriter, Win Butler. Nervous of what? Well, from their first album, “Funeral,” it seemed to be of growing up, of losing one’s innocence and of being ignored until one is considered an adult. The honest portrayal of childhood and loss of innocence on “Funeral” seem to question the Western World’s idea of "maturity" and "the real world.” However, in “Neon Bible,” the fear has become more concentrated. The images of war, dishonest religion and escape seems to be much more concentrated on the America we live in today, the darker side of our America. Personally, I had some trouble, at first, with this. I had trouble with the lyrics, “I don’t wanna live in
Anyways, all this to say, eventually, the album had the power to transcend my bias. The songs, they have this power to them that I’m going to try to write about. First off, their sound is uniquely theirs. A long time ago, Bono was asked how U2 achieved such a unique sound, and his response was that when they began playing, none of them knew how to play their instruments. Thus, it would follow that what came out was something nobody has heard before. The Arcade Fire has achieved this moreso with “Neon Bible” than with “Funeral,” though not because they don’t know how to play their instruments. The songs move forward like city transport, waiting for nobody, constant, taking you where you expect them to, but in a good way, like for the same reason that you got on the bus in the first place. At times, the lyrics become vague and dreamlike, but are redeemed in such songs as “Keep the Car Running,” and the eerie closer, “My Body is a Cage.” The organ in “Intervention,” is haunting and appropriate. And one of my favorites, "Ocean of Noise," is driven darkly with the sounds of thunder, a poppy bass lick and the low bass clef notes of the piano. The cure-esque sound of "(antichrist television blues)" lends soulful, honest words to the fear that this album is so concentrated around: the fear of living in a country in war, the post-9/11 America, the feeling that the "new" thing we crave, will never come, and the desire to escape.
"Neon Fire" is a great second album, but may be an album that is heavily listened to at first, and then becomes a situational album. The dark, quivering tones of the album may become a bit too much when you're trying to eat dinner or clean the bathroom. However, if it is dark, and you, too, are feeling dark and overwhelmed and scared, this album is right at home in the speakers of your vehicle, like friends over the phone, coffee, or good tobacco. It is music that will accompany you when you, too, do not want to be alone.