Saturday, April 14, 2007
Arcade Fire-worthy of the praise
The other day I was reading Paste magazine (a fantastic magazine…whole post on it coming) and something caught my eye as I was reading the article on Arcade Fire’s new album Neon Bible. “Even though their fierce, straining songs have little in common with Coldplay, last year Chris Martin dubbed Arcade Fire ‘the greatest band in history.’” The greatest band in history? Now, I’ve heard rash overstatements in the past (Little Dynamite, a native Minnesotan, once said that former T-Wolves guard Sam Cassell had the greatest mid-range jump shot in the history of the game…Sam Cassell), but I figured I should at least give Mr. Martin the benefit of the doubt and give this band a listen. And I found that while they may not be the greatest band in history, Mr. Martin may be on to something.
I first listened to three thirty second samples of songs from Neon Bible on itunes…and then immediately Bought Music. And after one full listen, I'm wondering if it's too soon to make a pick for album of the year. The album is a masterpiece from front to back. The influences on these songs are clear, but at the same time it’s like nothing I’ve heard before. Songs like “Keep the Car Running,” “Intervention,” or “Antichrist Television Blues,” are Springsteenish at their base, but their real beauty comes from impassioned lyrics delving into themes of religion, war, friendships, family, and love, combined with an absolute ‘ocean of noise’ on each track (“Ocean of Noise,” appropriately is a track on the album). This immaculate mixture of sounds in particular is what makes the album so special. At the end of “Ocean of Noise,” strings, piano, and horns flow effortlessly into one another, none overwhelming the other. The Paste article talks about husband and wife team and band leaders Win Butler and Regine Chassagne laboring over every last note and every last sound on each track, and this is evident in the finished product.
This album has beautiful melodies, powerful sound, and meaningful lyrics delivered by a passionate singer in Win Butler. Stand-out tracks for me are the aforementioned, with specific mention again of “Ocean of Noise” (I was doing schoolwork while listening to this song and actually had to stop what I was doing to listen…now that’s a good song). The “Well and the Lighthouse” is another hot spot, featuring a very 80s guitar riff, beautiful lyrical timing, and a slightly Bowieish delivery (I’m a big fan of naming artists and putting “ish” on the end), before a tempo-change and string accompaniment to bring it home.
I guess I’m most impressed by the way in which it seems that Arcade Fire didn’t settle on this album; every track seems to have been worked over to perfection, lyrically and musically…the anti-run of the mill album. Now I don’t know much, but what I do know is that I have a $29 of a $40 itunes gift certificate waiting for me in my itunes account and I don’t know what to buy because I don’t think anything will compare to the last album I bought; guess what it was.
(Post-Script: Problem solved…I just bought Funeral, Arcade Fire’s very successful fist album. Most reviews I’ve read claim that while Neon Bible is a great album, it does not match up to Funeral, considered by almost all as a masterpiece. Maybe it's just because Neon Bible popped my Arcade Fire cherry first, but I might even give it the upper hand to the stellar first album. Just do yourself a favor and pick up both if you haven’t already.)