Posted by: detourmag on June 28, 2007 at 8:30 am

ARCADE FIRE, Neon Bible (Merge, 2007)
So maybe the whole world has gone to hell, and-just maybe-the Arcade Fire, with their claim to do nothing unless it is meaningful, are the only fighters left against this inevitability. The band is a veritable army. Anchored by Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, the band’s seven full-time members, rounded out by Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara, are a large enough group to take on most other bands. (All except for maybe The Polyphonic Spree, but they are a fragile army, after all).

However, the Arcade Fire isn’t fighting music. They’re fighting the world. “Vial of hope and vial of pain/ In the light they both look the same,” Butler laments on Neon Bible’s somber title track, summing up a feeling that only gets safely grittier as the album continues.

After 2004′s Funeral stopped most critics in their tracks, there was little doubt that Arcade Fire would manage a decent sophomore release. While Neon Bible’s waters are a little more lukewarm, it’s still all lush and velvety and dense the way Fire fanatics have come to adore. So maybe Win Butler does sound a bit like Bruce Springsteen at times. At least he works it to his advantage. “(Antichrist Television Blues)” is a prime example of taking the working mans lament and turning it to the dark side. And it is the elder Butler’s voice that dominates Neon Bible. Chassagne’s vocals have taken a firm backseat, which makes her vocal parts have more impact (see: “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”). But she is no second fiddle (or megaphone, as the case may be). Even with all the pomp and circumstance, and obscene cast of characters, it’s the core dynamic of Chassagne and Butler that makes Arcade Fire the amazing band that they are. As has always been the case with this cast of characters, while they barely cover undiscovered territory, they do tackle the non-mainstream with ample pop sensibility. They may incorporate traditionally non-rock instruments, like the insanely large church organ heard on Neon Bible, and throw an off-kilter aesthetic into the mix, but they do so in a way that sounds every bit as palatable as an acoustic guitar. Lets hope it’s a fight they keep on winning.

– Natalie B. David


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