Monday, March 05, 2007

The King's Taking Back The Throne

With the pre-release media coverage having reached a crescendo in recent days (including a long and fawning profile in Sunday's New York Times Magazine), it seems pointless to write yet another review of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. Suffice it to say that it's finally out tomorrow, and yes, it's really, really good -- not as immediately engaging and consistently transcendent as Funeral, but a gorgeous, stirring record that not only fulfills the promise of the band's 2004 full-length debut (which is destined for “classic” status), but leaves no doubt that this will be a band to follow, admire, obsess over and adore for years to come.

In fact, if Neon Bible doesn't seem quite the masterpiece that its predecessor is, perhaps it’s only because this band can’t surprise us anymore. Funeral was a revelation from out of nowhere, a bolt of brilliance from a band that almost no one had ever heard of. This record, in contrast, has to be the most eagerly anticipated and over-hyped release of the year, or perhaps the last several years. So it has everyone expecting greatness, if not predisposed to look for flaws and lead some sort of backlash.

Fortunately, flaws are in short supply here. This is glorious, impassioned music by a band of exceptional vision, power and originality. I love it because it contains so many great songs -- "Black Mirror," "Keep The Car Running," "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations," "The Well and The Lighthouse" and even an amped-up new version of old favorite "No Cars Go." I would have been more than happy, though, if all it had given us was "Intervention," the biggest, most epic thing they've ever done. You can hate on them all you want for being such media darlings, for being so universally anointed, after only two records, as standard bearers for indie rock. But if the booming pipe organ on "Intervention" doesn't thrill you to your core -- if the moment at 2:54 when Win pushes his vocal up an octave, and Regine starts singing his lines back to him, doesn't make the hair on your arms stand up -- then there's something wrong with you.

MP3: Arcade Fire - "Keep The Car Running"