ARCADE FIRE – Neon Bible (Sonovox)

Arcade Fire’s second album has been almost as eagerly anticipated as The Arctic Monkeys’ latest effort, albeit by a slightly different fanbase. Opener ‘Black Mirror’ does not disappoint, and it is with some relief that we find that the band have decided to carry on where ‘Funeral’ left off. ‘Keep The Car Running’ (recently performed to a stunned Jonathan Ross audience) is a mad mix of mandolin, hurdy gurdy and twin violins, over which Win Butler intones his paranoia-stricken lyrics. The title track is a hushed acoustic piece, which does little to prepare you for ‘Intervention’. A real church organ booms out of the speaker, and you know that this song is going to be something special. A heart-felt tribute to the dead of the Iraq war, and a plea to the authorities to stop any more carnage is set to a surprisingly catch tune, with massed vocal chorus and haunting melody. ‘Black Wave/Bad Vibrations’ is a similarly political song, this time apparently about the tsunami tragedy of 2004, with the first half of the song being sung by Regine and Win taking over vocal duties for the remainder. ‘Oceans Of Noise’ is a more personal song, but the band can still give an impassioned delivery even if the sentiments are not as earth- shattering. ‘The Well And The Lighthouse’ finds an unrepentant criminal confined to prison and considering his wasted life. ‘(Antichrist Television Blues)’ is a rollicking trawl through the American mindset post 9/11, with all the paranoia and mistrust now engrained in the population being laid open in the story of one US stage mom and her fears for her child. ‘Windowsill’ and ‘No Cars Go’ are both melody-driven rockers, with the latter benefiting greatly from a sympathetic orchestral arrangement. The album closes with ‘My Body Is A Cage’, which sees the return of the church organ, impressively utilised in the explosive middle eight, and featuring a typically impassioned vocal from Win. Because ‘Funeral’ was so out there when it appeared, fully formed from a previously unknown band, I had fears that the band would never again match its vision. Having now heard this record I know that I should never have doubted the band, and Arcade Fire are now officially ‘the next big thing’.