4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
There is a certain religiosity about listening to Neon Bible. It could just be the word “bible” in the title making me think that, but I’m not so sure. It could also be something that only develops after seeing The Best Live Band in the world play. It could be the organs, it could be the lyrical references. It could be just the general mood. No matter what it is, it’s there. This is not background music. Every rumble, every sweep demands complete attention, complete devotion to the communal cause. At some point (possibly between the click of the light and the start of the dream? No?) there was a broad realisation that we were no longer dealing with an ordinary band. It’s the kind of thing that fills Mojo or Uncut. Talking about albums from thirty years ago with borrowed nostalgia, projected reverence. But it’s now. Neon Bible will be on a pedestal in fifty years, like no other album released this year (even In Rainbows) ever could be.
It’s a set-piece really. Ominous horns and a skeleton key piano part open Black Mirror, letting you know that Neon Bible is not going to be like Funeral. It’s going to out-morose an album named because of family deaths. That sort of vein continues with varying levels of obviousness throughout the album – vaguely gothic in a Helena Bonham Carter sort of way. More apocalyptic though. It’s sort of exhilarating to listen to. There are ghosts everywhere, in Regine’s vocals, and the organs, strings and rumbles. Before seeing the songs live, darkness was what I picked up from Neon Bible. A sort of black and white, Dickensian London meets Bush’s America trip through the downside of being human, and doing it in the world right now.
If you were ever going to write a “things to do before I die” list, and you haven’t seen Arcade Fire, you need to see to that. Without seeing them, the songs are dark, they’re negative through the neo-baroque arrangements. Live, they’re life-affirming. Like the Evangelist preachers (with whose imagery Win likes to play) ushering on the end of the world with joy every Sunday, coming together with a few thousand to see Neon Bible live is like being lifted up out of reality through music, and community. I’m not really able to express this without sounding like an absolute spanner. But it’s not gloomy music, I suppose, was the point. It’s an escape. Take My Body Is A Cage. Possibly the most depressing lyrics Win has ever written. And set to plodding, funereal music. But I defy you to listen to that song through and try to deny that it scratches heaven. That is what this album does consistently throughout. Out of darkness comes light.
Arcade Fire’s website and them with Bowie at the Grammy’s. Not on the album, but as the description says: If you don´t cry watching this, you are dead inside.