ARCADE FIRE’S new album, Neon Bible, is dripping with pessimism and paranoia
It’s a funny thing, success. Three years ago, when nobody had heard of them, the Arcade Fire responded to the deaths of family members with Funeral— an album that, its title notwithstanding, came off like a celebration of life. Now, having established themselves as perhaps revered indie band, the Montrealers return with
Neon Bible, which is dripping with pessimism and paranoia. will not sit well with devotees seeking the rush they got the first time they heard Funeral. But then, the music world is littered with casualties of ill-advised attempts to duplicate breakthrough albums (See Strokes, The). The easy criticism of Neon Bible is that it brazenly reaches for the epic, which frequently borders on the overwrought. But whereas a restrained middle act sags badly, it’s when the band is at its least subtle that it’s most interesting. An overtly political, overtly anti-religious anthem with a pipe organ and a chorus about “working for the church while your family dies” should embarrassing; instead, Intervention is hauntingly compelling. So the apocalyptic Windowsill. And then there’s (Antichrist Television Blues), in which Win Butler shamelessly apes Springsteen. None this recreates the euphoria of hearing Rebellion (Lies) or Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) for the first time. That euphoria, though, largely based on a sense of discovering something that—its Talking Heads influences notwithstanding—was unlike anything we’d heard before. Had Neon Bible been Funeral II, we wouldn’t have discovered anything new at all. And that’s when one of music’s most inventive bands really would have let its fans down. Adam Radwanski
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