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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

A vial of hope and a vial of pain
In the light, they both looked the same . . .

They are all there, Roy Orbison, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Ennio Morricone, Zappa, Lou Reed, U2, the young Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Stipe, Morrissey, John Lennon, Talking Heads . . . Arcade Fire call them all in, together with their multifarious sounds and influences and spray them out at us like a fire-eater at a fin-de-sicle, post modern, 9/11 world carnival.

There isn’t one questionable track on this album. Each of them has something to commend it. The mixture of fairy-tale and Armageddon on Black Mirror; the screaming paronoia of Keep the Car Running; the quiet acceptance and inevitability of the times in Neon Bible; the magnificent anger vying with the organ of Eglise St. Jean Babtiste on Intervention.

Black Wave/Bad Vibrations contrasts the sound of a stage musical chorus with the insistent beat of a prophetic warning; Ocean of Noise offers a brief and melodic respite of hope; while The Well and the Lighthouse makes sure we don’t forget that the lions and the lambs ain’t sleeping yet. (AntiChrist Television Blues) combines a plea with a warning: “I’m through being cute, and I’m through being nice”.

Windowsill combines a Kafkaesque vision of the western inheritance with Dylan’s idea of Desolation Row; while in No Cars Go we are given a glimpse of Eden, “Between the click of the light and the start of the dream”; and the final song is an anthem, My Body is a Cage, which might have been penned and performed by John Lennon.

And gloomy and angry though most of these songs are, after hearing them a few times I found myself singing along, itching to punch the air, unable to resist the lush arrangements, the fiery wall of guitar noise and soaring organ chords.

Neon Bible is an album about the spiritual wilderness in which we spend our days, caged and brainwashed by the chanting rant of God’s warriors as they hustle us ever closer to oblivion.

The planes keep crashing, always two by two

It’s great to think of the numbers of young people listening to this stuff (number 1 in Canada, number 2 in the USA and in the UK). It’s pretentious at times, often quite difficult and inaccessible but most of all it’s imaginative and experimental and completely irreverent. Gimme more.

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