Arcade Fire

Neon Bible (Merge)

Phases & Stages

Arcade Fire

Neon Bible (Merge)

Its title evoking sleaze, sin, and salvation, Arcade Fire's Neon Bible stares down the sophomore jinx with a pissed-off preacher's penetrating gaze. Whereas 2004's Funeral, which outpaced even Green Day's American Idiot and U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb for year-end accolades, was based around several family deaths that bonded these arty Montreal misfits with Texas roots (co-founder and general frontman Win Butler was raised in the Woodlands), LP No. 2 stems from tour buses, greenrooms, and hotels as the six (seven, eight, who knows?) postcollege friends became the toast of indie rock and wound up on CBS' Fashion Rocks with a bunch of Victoria's Secret models and David Bowie. And then tried to make sense of it all. Gifted (or cursed) with equal measures passion and cynicism, Butler weathers showbiz's moral contradictions and compromises without abandoning his belief in music's redemptive nature or its usefulness as a soapbox. Basically, he's either daydreaming of being the Antichrist or "singing hallelujah with fear in your heart." That's "Intervention," pretty churchy for a surefire hit single, but maybe that's just the ginormous pipe organ. Arcade Fire's anchorless two-year odyssey explains the dressing-room dilemma of "Black Mirror" and nautical bent of both "Ocean of Noise" and "The Well and the Lighthouse": "Ocean" is as languid and breezy as a Jimmy Buffett tune, while "Lighthouse," on the other hand, is a steely post-punk gallop with a swamp-pop coda where "lions and the lambs aren't sleeping yet." In "Windowsill," Butler ardently defends his adopted citizenship by calling on 9/11, Jeff Buckley, and the parable of the prodigal son. His inner Johnny Cash/prophet of doom has the wheel, but the grand rackets arranged by Owen Pallet and Butler's wife Régine Chassagne ("Keep the Car Running," "No Cars Go") insulate Neon Bible against any loss of CMJ cred. In the end, its true heart may lie closest to down-home closer "My Body Is a Cage." As Bono or Jack White could testify, there's salvation in the blues, and all the pipe organs in Canada aren't half as inspiring as a night at the crossroads.

***.5

The 2021-2022 Austin Music Awards Music Poll is underway. Vote now for your favorite bands, venues, and music until January 31.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Christopher Gray
Margaret Moser Tribute: Alvin Crow
Alvin Crow
Summer camp with the kids

June 30, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
That Margaret Moser, she’s a rainbow

June 30, 2017

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle