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The Arcade Fire, Dark and Energetic


The Arcade Fire ignited in 2004 with a much-lauded recording called Funeral. Many, who saw the 10-piece band in concert, walked away feeling they had just seen the future of rock 'n' roll. So expectations run high for the Montreal-based band's second album, "Neon Bible."

Tom Moon has a review.

TOM MOON: There's nothing small about the Arcade Fire.

(Soundbite of song, "Intervention")

MOON: The Arcade Fire spent most of 2006 developing the extra large sounds and songs of "Neon Bible." They set up in a church, and eventually recorded there. Singer and guitarist Win Butler brought in the songs, and with help from this band of seemingly rocket fueled, multi-instrumentalists, they created ingenious orchestrations.

When more than the band's few string players were needed, they flew to Hungary to record a 60-piece orchestra.

(Soundbite of song, "Intervention")

Mr. WIN BUTLER (Lead Singer, Arcade Fire): (Singing) Working for the church while my family dies. Your little baby sister's gonna lose her mind. Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home. Hear the soldier groan. We'll go it alone.

MOON: Many Arcade Fire songs talk about faith and what happens to ordinary people when their faith has been shattered. We've heard that before on countless rock anthems by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and others. But with the Arcade Fire, there's no redemption in the final verse, no easy escape out on the highway. Win Butler's lyrics are relentlessly grim. He's fixated on a bleak future. But all around him, the music is bursting with sunshine and big thrumming refrain that exude a contagious optimism.

(Soundbite of song, "Keep the Car Running")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) There's a weight that's pressing down. Late at night you can hear the sound. Even the noise you make when you sleep, can't swim across the river so deep. They know my name because I told it to them, but they don't know where and they don't know when it's coming, when it's coming.

MOON: Not every Arcade Fire song follows the typical pop script either.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Ms. REGINE CHASSAGNE (Singer and Multi-instrumentalist, Arcade Fire): (Singing) We can reach the sea. They won't follow me.

MOON: This one called "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" is a suite. It starts out with the singer and multi-instrumentalist, Regine Chassagne.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Ms. CHASSAGNE: (Singing) Run from the memory. (Singing in French)

MOON: After a few minutes of what would be any other band's great song, there's a break.

The tempo slows down and the whole theme shifts again into some of the most thrilling rock music of the last 20 years.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) Stop now before it's too late. Been eating in the ghetto on a dollar plate. Nothing lasts forever, that's the way it's got to be. There's a great black wave in the middle of the sea for me, for you, for me. It's always you.

MOON: There are lots of incredible things going on at once inside "Neon Bible." There's that massive triumphant sound, which seems to change every eight measures. And the Arcade Fire's radiant melodies, which help transform songs of disillusionment into uplift. Also, there's the sheer audacious ambition of the whole enterprise. The way these musicians take everything that's stirring about rock and pump it up until it's larger than life, and full of an electrifying creativity that's been missing for a long, long time.

NORRIS: The CD, "Neon Bible," is by the Arcade Fire. Tom Moon is our reviewer. You can hear these songs performed live at New York's Judson Memorial Church, at

(Soundbite of "Antichrist Television Blues")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No, I don't wanna work in a building downtown. I don't know what I'm gonna do, cause the planes keep crashing always two by two. I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No I don't wanna see when the planes hit the ground. I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No, I don't wanna work in a building downtown. Parking their cars...


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.