Neon Bible review by Arcade Fire

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Mar 6, 2007
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.7 (51 votes)
Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

Sound — 9
Montreal's Arcade Fire returns from its awe-inspiring debut Funeral, an album centered around the concept of death (after many of the members' relatives passed away), with an even darker album centered around the current state of the world. The whole vibe of Neon Bible can be summed up with the title of the track Black Waves/Bad Vibrations. Described by musician/vocalist Win Butler as like standing in the ocean at night, the music is indeed very dark and haunting. But it still retains the grandiosity and multi-instrumentalism of Funeral, making Neon Bible a dense, melodic, emotional album sure to become a classic amongst indie fans. Win Butler's voice takes on a darker, world-weary edge throughout the album, on tracks such as Windowsill and particularly on the pleading My Body is a Cage, the extraordinary closer. There has been a subtle shift away from the guitars as the string section takes a more pronounced role (No Cars Go) even playing a few lead lines in Black Mirror. The drumming remains as dynamic as it was on Funeral, despite the replacement of Howard Bilerman by Jeremy Gara. The band have also incorporated the church organ, most effectively on My Body is a Cage. Every instrument, however, adds to the dynamic element of the music, thus making Neon Bible a listening experience that should most definitely be played at high volumes.

Lyrics — 10
The best quality about Neon Bible is it's lyrics. No exaggeration, they are some of the best lyrics I have ever listened to, both poetic and purposeful. In short, Neon Bible is a commentary about the declining moral, social, and particularly spiritual state of the world. The album opens with the evidently dark Black Mirror named after a voyeuristic ancient device used to foretell the future. It is this Black Mirror that the band holds up to the world's face on the rest of the album. Windowsill targets corporate America with lines such as I don't want the salesmen knocking at my door/I don't wanna live in America no more and MTV what have you done to me? /save my soul/set me free/I can't breathe, I can't see. (Antichrist Television Blues), a song supposedly about Michael Lohan (yes, father of Lindsay), describes the manipulation of a daughter by her father in hopes of escaping a dead-end corporate life, and how he pleads God to let her be a success. The lines Wanna hold a mirror up to the world/ so they can see themselves in my little girl! shows how the world and the tragic character Lindsay are similar, in that both have turned to an existence of material excess and have sold out all that used to be good about themselves, and are reaping the consequences. I'm through being cute/I'm through being nice/Oh tell me Lord/am I the Antichrist? Organized religion is also a target, in Intervention (Working for the church while your family dies) and Neon Bible (A vial of hope and a vial of pain./In the light they both looked the same and Not much chance for survival/if the Neon Bible/is right). Ocean of Noise is about the disintegration of relationships (Left in the morning/while you were fast asleep, and 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). Keep the Car Running is about being forcibly separated from loved ones (Men are coming to take me away/don't know why but I know I can't stay and If some night I don't come home/please don't think that I've left you alone). No Cars Go expresses a desire for escape from the rush and concerns of modern life (We know a place where no planes go/we know a place where no ships go), while Black Wave/Bad Vibrations suggests a total lack of hope (Nothing lasts forever, that's the way it's gonna be/there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea). The album closes with My Body is a Cage a spiritual lament directed at mankind that contains some of the finest lines on the album (I'm living in an age/that calls darkness light/though my language is dead/still the shapes fill my head). The album ends as Win Butler tosses up one last hopeful prayer: Set my spirit free!

Overall Impression — 9
This is a near-perfect album. I would call Neon Bible the Dark Side of the Moon of our generation (mainly because of the similar themes) if it weren't musical blasphemy to compare it to the greatest album of all time. The music is moving and emotional (thankfully by no means emo), the lyrics are poetic, and the spiritual themes are the best I've heard from any secular band. I personally prefer it to Funeral but I'm sure many will disagree. I would buy this album twice so that if it were stolen, both the thief and I could have a copy.

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Is it supposed to be about Joe Simpson, cause I read in like Time or something like that that it was about Michael Lohan, certainly would make more sense if it were Lindsays dad, what with the train wreck she is. but I know its about one of those "celebutant" fathers
    I prefer 'Funeral' too. It's just got a better feeling to it. Feels more effortless
    I like Funeral more too, but on it's own Neon Bible easily stands up for itself and "No Cars Go" live is absolutely incredible.
    I think Funeral is better. Critics prefer Neon Bible cause' its technically a better album, but I prefer listening to Funeral! Its the first album to sound like that and therefore is better!
    Great review, totally agree about the lyrics, their some of the best I've heard. I agree with Teig, that Funeral feels more effortless though Neon Bible is equally awesome.
    one of my favorite albums ever. when i first got it, i listened to it over and over again all night. i dont think i got much sleep. i am a lil disapointed that Antichrist Television Blues is a bout somthing stupid like lindsey lohan. i thot it was a bit more meaningful. she doesnt deserve a song by arcade fire
    lindsay's not the subject, just an allegory. there's a deeper meaning to it, and (from what i read in a time magazine article) its supposedly about her father, and someone else said that it's about Joe Simpson. it's an allegory for how we sometimes use other people, even family who we're supposed to care about, just for our own personal gain, and how we try to drag God into it and pray only for our selfish, careless desires. the subject is very relevant, how the world, like lindsay, has become caught up in material excess and has debased itself because of it and is dealing with even more problems that it was before. but that's what i see, that may not be what it's about.
    I thought funeral would be so much better, so after i had neon bible i bought just wasn't as good, dragged abit...unlike this album, which is ace!
    Arcade Fire is pretty much unstoppable right now. If Win Butler took a shit on a microphone, it would probably sound good.