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Five Sonnets on Arcade Fire's Neon Bible

There once was a band from Quebec....

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2007
I give it an abab...
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2007
I give it an abab...
Arcade Fire

Neon Bible

Just four years past the last thousand-year turn
A darkness had found in our ears steady work.
When Promethean light from the Quebecoise burned
Lit a quill in a hand that rose from the murk
Writing pianos and panting at funeral pyres
A light to be seen by all, to the reaches of heaven
Such a blaze that was set by the Arcade Fires,
It earned a whispered unforeseen 9.7!
Its rising star was like that spied upon  Our Savior's birth
And all in the feeble world was set right
No fool dare come with challenge to its worth.
Lest they beg eager hipsters for a knockdown fight!
Fickle, though, is the wind that blows up the garment hem
Of those too quickly coronated (remember R.E.M.?)

The candle that flickers in that same winds' breath
Is thus blown out by time's sloppy kiss
And is there any more funeral, any truer death
Than being confused for The Decemberists?
That disc, praised so high, slid under the seat
Of our collective memory's Taurus
And our attentions then turned in feckless defeat
To scads of copycat dance rock to bore us.
But hark! In a rumble and rush a "Black Mirror"
Ushered gently the Fire's sophomore blaze.
That is sits so majestically on the ear of this hearer
It leaves me standing in flames, stunned and amazed!
I see now the light that illuminated
The gleam of a band I'd decided I had rashly hated.

Admittedly, many here in The Neon Bible's cover
Have a sameness about them that borders on cloning
Win Butler has embraced his sound like a lover
And has given his quill a defintive honing.
On "Keep the Car Running" his earnest heart beats
Free from his chest with a  shimmer The Edge
Couldn't have bettered in inumerable heats.
The title track though sends me off to the ledge.
Its blackened pulse slows like a quasar dying
In a signal received by quivering antenna.
It's a beautiful thing that seems hardly trying
As it beckon us: come to join me in Gehenna..
It hangs in my ear like the waves of a gong
And touches in places that are possibly wrong.

The cathedral's invaded in their song "Intervention"
With a cadence that recalls the rock of garage
A pipe organ provides a succinct ascension
Instead of a guitar's redundant barrage.
And children's choir echoes in divine intertwining
Its devices are obvious, but still are eclipsed
By Butler's unfettered emotion set climbing
The ladder to God that starts at his lips.
OK, that's a stretch so the pentameter flies
But it's a stretch that our heroes would willingly take
"working for the church while you family dies".
Is a chorus whose clarity is too good to fake.
But "Anarchist television Blues" is the place
Where his voice and his words tie for first in this race.

"Dear God, I'm a good Christian man" he sings
As he defies a life spent tending dead-end fires
And the whole damn things in slap echo rings
Up to crescendo then its halts and expires.
I doubt it'll make the Fire's first pop single
Because nothing this good survives in the light
But it will serve as some Sundance movie's earnest jingle
You'll watch, yawning, in insomnia's desperate night.
Such is the fate of such well crafted splendor
Too complex for market, too rich for their taste
But the money's well spent on the part of the spender
Should a spender take up this Bible in haste.
Like Funeral before it, not built for the ages
But beauty untrammeled is found in its pages.

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Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com


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