Maybe it was just my mood, or maybe it was one of those albums, like good cheese or fine wine, that I just needed to let sit around long enough so that it’d age into something better than it was fresh out the gate. Of course, I didn’t get the Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible” immediately upon release, but instead waited half a year and cheated on my “Buy Nothing Year” to acquire it. Maybe I disliked it initially because I was upset at myself for cheating, or maybe, as I said, I just wasn’t in the mood. But as I listen to it now, I find myself taken away by the bulk of the album.
The opening track, “Black Mirror”, was the first I heard, repeatedly, as it was “leaked” on the internet well in advance of the album. I kind of liked it at first, but of all the tracks I now find it the least enjoyable, and in fact it is what has made it more difficult for me to appreciate the full album as I find it a barrier to entry. “Keep The Car Running”, however, is the momentum-building track that sucks me in, and the hushed, reserved title track is its perfect after-race cool down. “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” starts off with Régine Chassagne on lead vocals, and it wears thin, but as Win Butler kicks into the epic side of the track it swells till it explodes. After that build up “Ocean of Noise” fades into the background a bit, but “The Well and the Lighthouse” is as typical an Arcade Fire track as you can get, which is to say it embodies everything in the band’s sound that fans have come to expect.
“(Antichrist Television Blues)” finds Butler channeling Springsteen and doing it just as good as the Boss. “Windowsill” is one of the AF’s patented slow build, starting out as a hush, with minimal instrumental accompaniment, building into the full band with it’s mini-orchestra of strings and horns and a group chant backing up Butler. A reprise of No Cars Go is, at best, unnecessary, but here it is anyway, padding out the album, before it’s brilliant closing track “My Body Is A Cage”. That last track is what sold me on “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”, moreso than David Fincher, or Brad Pitt, or the unusual story… the song was pitch perfect for the trailer.
I’ve complained about “Neon Bible” in the past, but I’ve come around. Though I can excise “Black Mirror” and “No Cars Go” from the playlist happily.