72.) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007)
Well what the hell were they gonna do?
All the accolades, press and buzz that came with the release of Arcade Fire's debut record Funeral made Neon Bible the most anticipated second record of the decade and as far as I'm concerned they did a pretty damn good job with it.
How does one criticize Neon Bible really? Arcade Fire were scrutinized to no end and turns out they made a fine, dare I say, a great record. The fact that it's not as good as Funeral is mostly irrelevant. There weren't many records released this year as good as Funeral so... who cares? They certainly fared better than co-blogosphere heroes Clap Your Hans Say Yeah when it came to that second record - shit, CYHSY didn't even survive it.
Neon Bible avoids all traces of a "sophomore slump" because It's an entirely different type of record than Funeral. First of all it's themes are wildly public and less personal, which explains why it feels, at times, a bit colder than Funeral. While Funeral (and I'll stop the comparisons after this I promise) sounded like nothing else, Neon Bible sounds like Bruce Springsteen, which at the time seemed crazy but as it turns out was actually a really great fit.
Springsteen -at his best- wrote about bleak topics but arranged the music in a way that clouded what was actually going on in the song. He was often boisterous - and Arcade Fire have done that in spades on Neon Bible. As a matter of fact if you burned someone, who has never heard it, a copy of Darkness on the Edge of Town and shoehorned "(Antichrist Television Blues)" in there somewhere that person wouldn't bat an eye. They'd think it was Bruce. And that song's about Joe Simpson, so it just goes to show how timeless Springsteen's sound is.
But let's talk about Arcade Fire. Again, they were given an impossible task the second pitchfork wrote that first sentence about Funeral (not to mention the night David Bowie started showing up at small NY clubs to see them) and if they managed to simply not embarrass themselves this second time out, it would have been a success. That they made a tough, insightful record about despair and corruption on a widescreen level that works and sounds great is a miracle.
Every record Arcade Fire make will be compared to Funeral. That's their cross to bare, but they're aware of it. After all, they named the record after John Kennedy Toole's less successful second novel. As long as they can keep figuring out new ways to sound this good, they're poised to be one of the great bands of this generation.
Posted by Pat Driscoll