Since they burst onto the scene with Funeral in 2004, Arcade Fire have certainly packed a lot in; four albums with a fifth due later this year, an Album of the Year Grammy Award, a headline slot at Glasto, and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score category (for Spike Jonze’s Her). Now come the anniversaries…yes the band’s second album Neon Bible turns ten years old.
Released on 3rd March 2007 via Merge Records, the “difficult second album” may not have earned the same universal critical acclaim as Funeral (although Q named it their album of 2007, and both NME and Rolling Stone gave it fourth spot in their end of year lists) or the awards like its Grammy-winning successor The Suburbs, but Neon Bible represented proper commercial success for the band, debuting at number two in the Billboard 200 and in the UK album charts. It wasn’t just about the music though; the album’s cover art, that neon sign of a flickering bible, was named in Rolling Stone’s top five best covers of the year.
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Primarily recorded in a converted church, Neon Bible saw the band’s sound move into darker and more gothic territory, amplified by their use of mandolins, organs and accordions as well as orchestras and choirs. Album opener ‘Black Mirror’ very much sets the tone for the whole record…a black mirror is an old-timey device that supposedly told the future, and what Arcade Fire shows us doesn’t look so good.
The same creepy vibes crop up in the video, which also came in an interactive version, where you could toggle layers of the track on and off turning it instrumental or a cappella as you please.
The lyrics might lean towards doom and gloom but the music as a whole manages to remain uplifting, with all those instruments and Régine Chassagne’s vocals providing a sense of joy. It may bec a little overblown at times but a decade down the line, Neon Bible is still rocking.