Thursday, March 8, 2007

Schedule? We Don't Need No Stinking Schedule!

I lied. I can't seem to do anything in a timely manner, and if you're annoyed, just imagine how I must feel. I have to live with me 24/7...

Arcade Fire- Neon Bible (Merge Records, released 3/6/07)

Only a quarter of the year has gone by, but I see a possible album of the year with the Arcade Fire's latest offering. A bold statement? Perhaps, but after the first listen to the leaked tracks I knew I was hearing something special, and it's the finest album of 2007 as of press time. I gave The Decemberists' The Crane Wife a perfect score last year, as if Colin Meloy and company could do no wrong. This year, Win Butler's crew looks as if the title of Perfect Score could apply. Read on...

Lyrically, Butler's words are as emotionally open as the wounds he's trying to heal through his art. It's a cathartic yet healthy soul-bearing, not like that screamo/emo shit that does way more damage than it's actually worth. I'll save that bashing for another day. I'll also save the "what's in the water in Canada?" question for another day also, but I would be remiss to not add that for the last few years, all the best bands come from that great country to the north.

I'd also be doing this album (and this review for that matter) a great injustice by not reviewing some of my favorite couplets. And in classic AP English style I'll go ahead and offer my opinion to what they may mean. Call it a psychoanalysis of Neon Bible if you will.

Intervention - "You say it's money that we need, as if we're the only mouths to feed- I know that no matter what you say, there are some debts we never pay..." I'm thinking this is one of those "Oh, George Bush, what have you done to the world?" songs. Hey, I'm all for outsiders' opinions on this stupid war on terror. Thom Yorke dedicated a whole album to it, Bloc Party has an opinion on it, and how about fellow Canadians Stars? It seems that the most insightful (or insipid) remarks made against our shitty president comes from a more worldly point of view.

Ocean Of Noise - "No way of knowing what any man will do, an ocean of violence between me and you. You've got your reasons and me I've got mine- But all the reasons I gave were just lies to buy myself some time. I'm gonna work it out- 'cause time wont work it out, I'm gonna work it out- 'cause time wont work it our for you. I'm gonna work it on out." These may be the most powerful lyrics on the entire album. A break-up? A death? What could it be? Oh, please tell me!

Windowsill - "Don't wanna give 'em my name and address, don't wanna see what happens next- Don't wanna live in my father's house no more; don't wanna live with my father's debt- You can't forgive what you can't forget. Don't wanna live in my father's house no more, don't wanna fight in a holy war- don't want the salesmen knocking at my door. I don't wanna live in America no more..." Pretty self-explanatory right there. Working on personal demons as well as the ills of society, from what I can gather. Strong introspection, self-effacement and resolution, all in 8 lines. Great songwriting!

My Body Is A Cage - "I'm living in an age that calls darkness light. Though my language is dead- still the shapes fill my head. I'm living in an age whose name I don't know. Though the fear keeps me moving- still my heart beats so slow." This theme is the theme of modern man, for more on this, read my review of TV On The Radio's Return To Cookie Mountain. To paraphrase myself: "...(it signals) man's divorce from romantic, individual thought and his embrace of technology and information. I think the relevant voices of modern society all echo a similar sentiment- that man becomes destitute by elevating himself, and (that Neon Bible) is the soundtrack for the impending apocalypse."

Musically, it's exactly what I expected, as in: excellent. Not to compare Neon Bible to Funeral, but stylistically speaking, it only differs slightly from what Arcade Fire does so well, and the title track closes in on a Joy Division-esque drone that would make Ian Curtis so very proud. (Antichrist Television Blues) suggests back to a little Springsteen-ish shuffle. Churning organs, strings, slowed-down rhythms, it's just what you know from Arcade Fire, plus a little added oomph in there for good measure.

The only knock I can lay on this album is the choice for the opener, Black Mirror. I'm not in love with it like the other 10 tracks here, and it may have served a better purpose wedged between songs toward the bottom of the playlist. If only I was a record producer. And sadly, that's my same knock on Funeral- that album should've opened with their concert opener, Wake Up. I'm a picky little bastard, ain't I? And was it totally necessary to re-record No Cars Go from their first EP? So, regretfully: because of these minor malfeasances, I can't give this album a perfect score. But it's so close...
Overall rating: 97

I'm not even going to post what's coming next. Tomorrow? A few days? Next week? Meh...

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