The second album from Montreal's Arcade Fire exceeds all expectations. With string and orchestral arrangements by two of the band members, "Neon Bible" is full of both half-assed punk rock mistakes and meticulously orchestrated woodwinds. Processed strings and mandolin. Quiet rumbles and loud rumbles. But mostly just eleven songs that the band thinks are really good. The deluxe CD version is packaged in a hinged box with two 32-page flip books designed by the band. The LP is double 180-gram audiophile quality with three sides of music and an etching on the fourth side. The LP also includes a coupon for a free MP3 download of "Neon Bible". Arcade Fire's 2004 debut "Funeral" has scanned over 300,000 copies and is certified platinum in Canada.
For their second full-length, the Montreal-based seven-or-eight-piece Arcade Fire show themselves capable of Big Rock, as original, and as potentially marquee-topping as TV on the Radio and Sigur Ros. Regardless, the intentional murkiness of these pleasantly anthemic New Wave dirges makes it sound as if the music has already reverberated through a crowded cement stadium. Named after cult author John Kennedy Toole's first novel, Neon Bible
is smart and subtle enough to present itself as a personal discovery for every listener, every word to be pored over by fans (as with those of Tori Amos, Pavement, and Radiohead). Surely, lines like "The sound is not asleep/ It's moving under my feet" have already been scribbled onto the margins of countless textbooks. Such words are delivered with less intensity this time, but no less import. For vocal influences, lead singer Win Butler seems to have traded his '80s Bowie in for an '80s Springsteen, at least on the songs "Antichrist Television Blues" and "Windowsill" (though "Intervention" sounds an awful lot like '80s era Go-Betweens). The kitchen sink arrangements include the use of an Eastern European orchestra, pipe organ, hurdy gurdy, and a military choir. --Mike McGonigal