Thu Mar 1 2007
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Before he moved to Canada and became the toast of the Montreal indie-rock scene as frontman of Arcade Fire, Win Butler lived life as a Texan. That gave him an appreciation for the epic and the windswept, which pervades Neon Bible even more than it did Funeral, the band’s hit 2004 debut. On Funeral, the impressive heft of the group’s music sounded like the result of the members’ fascination with creative catharsis, rather than their desire to make a profound statement about the world. Now that they’ve toured that world and rubbed elbows with profound-statement-makers like David Bowie and U2, Butler and his bandmates (including his wife and covocalist, Rgine Chassagne) wield weightiness as a tool.
Though Neon Bible was recorded in Quebec, New York, London and Budapest, those far-flung locales have less to do with fancy-studio production flourishes than with an expanded songwriting scope; where Funeral recounted painful family crises, NeonBible describes the search for a refuge from crashing airplanes and salesmen peddling bad dreams. On “Intervention,” a Phantom of the Opera pipe organ signifies a fear powerful enough to “lift me up and take me out of here,” while the ominous bass groove in opener “Black Mirror” reflects the hidden menace of being “shot by a security camera.” Only two CDs into a career jump-started by blog hype, these Fire fighters have moved into Big Album territory remarkably quickly. As this thrillingly audacious effort proves, they’re ready. — Mikael Wood