If you happened to catch a U2 show during their last tour (Vertigo), you were likely introduced to the experimental sounds of Arcade Fire—perhaps unbeknowngst to you. Prior to their entrance, U2 made a decision to prep their audiences with an amped version of “Mr. Bright Side” (The Killers) followed by the intense choral sounds of “Wake Up” (Arcade Fire). If you were fortunate enough to experience the show more than once (I’m slightly obsessive), it would have been difficult to head home and not explore what was behind the seemingly perfect intro song.
“Wake Up” is a prominent track on the group’s “official” debut album, Funeral (2004), which aside from earning a Grammy nomination—was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of its year. As it is rare for any artist/group in the music industry to earn any significant respect until their “sophomore” album, Neon Bible (March 2007) was a highly anticipated release.
Although Neon Bible is a strong follow-up to Funeral musically, it is the lyrics that have grabbed the attention of many (including myself).
So, what is the Neon Bible?
Well, if the the Bible is considered the “answer” book to most, this one is certainly full of questions.
Questions of God, faith, religion, society, and self.
To make things a bit more interesting – these questions are subtlety directed to those “within” (or working for) a faith-based structure. In an interview with Paste Magazine, lead singer/writer Win Butler stated the album as:
addressing religion in a way that only someone who actually cares about it can. Its really harsh at times, but from the perspective of someone who thinks it has value.
Butler, alongside band-mate and wife Regine Chassagne, undoubtedly have an intrigue in God, faith and their role place in culture and their own lives. However, any interests are coated with concern – primarily as a result of past experience. Although the band now finds it home near Montreal, Quebec (interesting enough – the band actually works out of an old church), Win was born in Texas and raised Mormon. Throughout the album, there seems to be nothing but push-back to this upbringing (or at least to his father); yet, not without Win’s own pursuits of an authentic faith.
As many of the readers of this site seem to be those “who thinks [religion/faith] has value”, I would encourage you to listen introspectively. Listen to the tension within life’s complexity. Listen to the pursuit of hope juxtaposed to the realities of fear. (“Neon Bible”, “(Antichrist Television Blues)”) Listen to the warnings for the church. (“Intervention”) Listen for the cries of freedom midst the chaos and pressure. (“Windowsill”, “My Body is a Cage”)