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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Catching Fire.

It was recently pointed out to me that I gave Arcade Fire's Funeral the lowest rating of any reviewer in the country. Well, at least according to Metacritic, a site that sorts through music notices and ranks them according to an arcane process I cannot fathom. Also, I have no idea how wide their reach is, so there might have been some writer in Juneau, Alaska that disliked it more.

Actually, I didn't hate the record, I just failed to see how it was the greatest rock release of the decade. I reviewed it well before the hype explosion, so my feelings about it were hardly reactionary. It was just my opinion of the work itself.

Since then, AF have become the darlings of journalists and superstar rockers alike, and they no doubt felt some pressure while recording the follow-up.

I had no expectations regarding their new effort Neon Bible, and I didn't go out of my way to hear it early. Through cursory blog-reading, however, I noticed that fans seem ever-so-slightly underwhelmed.

Today I heard the thing all the way through, and I must confess to really liking it. It captures the feeling of claustrophobia and end-of-days angst gorgeously, while retaining a somewhat scruffy sound.

It arrives on March 6. Here are two samples (industry heavies can feel free to let me know if I need to take 'em down):

Arcade Fire — "Windowstill"

Arcade Fire — "My Body is a Cage"


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Arcade Fire just doesn't do it for me at all. They're certainly not a bad band by any means, but I can't understand for the life of me what all the hype is all about. The lyrics sound like they're pulled directly from the diary of an angsty teenager from 1995 ("MTV what have you done to me?"...give me a break). The music itself is decent but certainly nothing groundbreaking by any means.

But what do I know--50,000,000 Arcade Fire fans can't be wrong...


You ain't wrong about that line, dude. Maybe I picked the wrong tunes to post.


It's really not fair of me to make a judgement about the new album until I've heard it in full. And from the tracks you've posted, the new album will probably appeal to me more than "Funeral" did. "Funeral" just reminded me of a more polished version of Bright Eyes, who is another artist that I person just don't get.

Maybe it's just me. I can think of dozens of bands that I either hated or was apathetic about at one point and then suddenly I had a moment of clarity & slapped myself in the head for not seeing the brilliance sooner.

Maybe Arcade Fire will be one of those bands. And although my "50,000,000 fans" comment was kind of snide, I do have a lot of respect for a band that can generate such a large and devoted following. I just think that there are probably other bands around today who are more deserving of such an audience.


Oh, yeah — I mean, there's no doubt AF are overrated. And they're not like my new favorite band, or anything; I just think it's a smooth 'n' dark album. the first cut, "Black Mirror" is really good. I should've led with that one. Lyrically it's a little light, but I understand the sentiment.

I don't get Bright Eyes, either. The real reason I like the new AF more than their debut is because the frontguy isn't yelping anymore.

But whatever... Like I needed to be the 50,000,000th blogger to weigh in on what's bound to be the most over-analyzed release of '07.

Sometimes I talk about the obvious stuff, 'cause I'm so shocked when I like it.


I've been listening to the album for about a month now; about once every 3 or 4 days... and just like the first album i think it's going to take a while (about a year) to grow on me. Not that it's bad, and i actually think i like more songs immediately than the first one that at first i found front loaded, and then later found to be pretty solid through and through... anyway, i think as far as sophomores go, there's going to do fine with this one.



... they are?

[shakes head in confusion at self.]


As I am a highly nefarious little imp, I too, have acquired an advance copy of Neon Bible. I'm Arcade Fire neutral, I like 'em well enough, as background-office music, but I can't say I've ever sat down with a pair of headphones and felt that my life was changed by listening to either album.

I'd give it a solid B. What I'd expect, not better, not worse.


There are three things that I think contibuted to the excitement for AF following Funeral.

1) They do a great live show and toured heavily after releasing the album. So, a lot of people saw them and were reacting to their live performance. It truly is a fantastic show.

2) Funeral has this cool feeling where it isn't immediately accessible but there is enough to draw you in and feel there is promise there if you spend more time listening to it. Then it rewards you as you spend more time with it. That cycle feeds perfectly into indie fandom.

3) For the few years leading up to Funeral, it seemed that indie fans had been sucking down a slew of minimalist artists. So, when AF arrived with eight members playing a wide variety of instruments, it felt like your B&W TV had gone technicolor suddenly.

Yes, the attention they got was kind of crazy there for a while. But I don't hold that against them. I loved Funeral and am enjoying Neon Bible. And I think both of those things would be true even if I lived in a media blackout cocoon.


I wanna live in a media blackout cocoon!

I bet it beats Frank Black's "Abstract Plane."


I like AF, probably more than I would've expected. They're great subway, snowy sidewalk, after hours spot music. Sure, their lyrics don't make a whole lotta sense, for some reason it doesn't matter for me with this band. They arrange their music in a way that I find appealing, apparently. It's all subjective anyway though. Listen to what you like I guess.


Couldn't agree more.


After this Saturday's SNL appearance & a revisiting of "Funeral" I think I've personally come to the conclusion that Arcade Fire is nothing more than the new Coldplay--full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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