Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This Just In

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Neon Bible
Source: Bought new

Damn, I miss this. A new band blows me away and I am driven - compelled, really - to order the new album. In the case of the Arcade Fire, I actually felt the overwhelming need to preorder the new one, so thoroughly was I rocked by the band at NYC's Judson Memorial Church. It just doesn't happen to me much anymore. (I've either grown too old for such things or too selective to fall for just any new release.)

When Neon Bible arrived from Merge (a full day after the official release date, but I forgive the label and the U.S. Postal Service) I got to tear it open, pop it in the CD player and listen to it already revved up for what I was going to hear.

Neon Bible did not disappoint.

The pre-release show was a definite asset: the Arcade Fire is an intensely visual band, and being able to envision what was going on behind the sounds took the songs and blew them out into 3D, even on the first listen. And the second. And so on.

It would have been easy to be disappointed, too. This disc got WAY too much pre-release media coverage, and I could already imagine having heard too much about the record to really hear it. But it didn't go that way, and some of the critical coverage even helped me listen more astutely. When a few too many critics mentioned a Springsteen vibe to Neon Bible, I had it pegged as either lazy press-release copying or Internet echo-chamber repetition. And yet, there it was, plain as day - not really the sound of the E Street Band so much as the visceral yearning in the performance, the struggle to connect a individualized experience to an everyday one. Lead singer Win Butler overreached on parts of nearly every track, something the young Boss understood intuitively.

The music, though, is more like the Z Street Band. It's all in there, from standard rock playing to exotic instrumentation to carefully structured counterpoint in the vocals. The Arcade Fire has absorbed the high points of the 80s - latter-era Clash, Talking Heads, Joy Division, peak-moment Cure, Eno/Lanois-driven U2, etc - and molded it into something both older and more modern than the sounds they're nicking. Bravo.

Read any year-end poll from 2006 and you'll hear a chorus of moaning, that it's just not easy to get excited about a lot of the newest music. Neon Bible is, early in '07, an answer to that challenge, and I hope there's more stuff in this league to come before the year closes out.


  • Don't forget the Pixies, man! And Bowie! And Grant Hart! It's all in there and yet it's all theirs. . . I'm a little overexcited too. . .

    By Blogger melissa, at 12:50 PM  

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