Saturday, December 8, 2018

Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (2007)

Release Date: March 5, 2007
Active Members: Win Butler, Regina Chassagne, Will Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, Richard Reed Parry
Produced by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire's second album Neon Bible looks at the world after a cataclysm, heavy on post 9/11 overtones, or at least the long term consequences of a world destined for another series of endless wars. Neon Bible attempts to find meaning in a broken world of failed belief systems. As the the opening track "Black Mirror" predicts:

I know a time is coming
All words will lose their meaning

By far the Montreal troupe's bleakest album, Neon Bible presents a world shaped by a decade that witnessed the potent influence of fundamentalist religion reveals itself again and again.

The futuristic "Keep the Car Running" imagines another Orwellian scenario with a protagonist knowing it's a matter of time before the authorities knock on his door, "Men are coming to take me away/I don't know why, but I know I can't stay." 

"Neon Bible" takes aim at eschatology obsession of modern religion, specifically the Book of Revelation."not much chance for survival if the neon bible is right." If people think our world is doomed and a better one awaits, no wonder the earth is treated with such contempt. In a similar vein, "Intervention" imagines fighting for a church in some past or present war for no purpose whatsoever. A sort of anti-hymn with heavy organs and despairing lyrics. 

Regina and Win share verses on "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" on another song of escape. "Ocean of Noise" an ambient lamenting narrative, positing a relationship on the precipice. "The Well and the Lighthouse" tells a fairy tale of resurrection within another failing civilization.

"Antichrist Television Blues" is a brutal examination of the Christian fundamentalist mindset, a disturbing song full of pathos about a man trapped between his belief system, economic constraints, and his daughter who can sing "like a bird in a cage." By the end he wonders if he's the actual Antichrist in a grim epiphany. 

"Windowsill" channels T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland as the exhausted protagonist speculates on whether meet his fate in a flood or be incinerated in a World War III, all he knows is "he don't wanna live in America no more." 

"No Cars Go," the anthem of Neon Bible, imagines a utopia free of intrusion from the instruments of pollution and war - reminiscent of The Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere." "My Body is Cage" is a meditation on repression from within and without.

Musically Neon Bible has the exuberant production of Funeral, but much darker in theme and tone. A heavy listen, the album doesn't give you a chance to breathe, music for the end times. 

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