Arcade Fire

Neon Bible (Merge)

After the Arcade Fire took leave of hanging with David Bowie but before they hunkered down to record the much-awaited follow-up to Funeral, they listened to some serious Springsteen. Maybe it wasn't always Nebraska, but that classic had to have been the album of choice, let's say, seven of every 10 spins. (And of this hypothesis—I must give a musician friend and my mama some credit for having the exact same reaction I did upon first listen.) Here's my scenario: Someone says, "I wanna hear the Boss." Someone else hasn't heard "Atlantic City" (hey, it's possible). Everyone stops chattering, Régine puts down the hurdy-gurdy, and the band, in its entirety, focuses with Sunday-sacrament regard. Bam!, you got a new sound sensation. Now, at some points, Neon Bible does nod to the cacophonous grits 'n' glam symphony ("Black Mirror") that made Funeral a critical favorite, and the band remains identifiable by more than just Win Butler's wail. Other times, the album waxes Eddie & the Cruisers ("Keep the Car Running") and wanes 'Steen ("Antichrist Television Blues"). But no matter the influence track to track, Bible-era Arcade Fire executes moving ballads ("Ocean of Noise" and "My Body Is a Cage") and fervent, chanty danceabouts ("No Cars Go") while subtly peddling political sentiments and deftly wielding some luxurious, teasing restraint. (Bonus points to Chassagne for losing the Bjork impression; this go-round she's an asset rather than a irritating distraction.)

 
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