By Paul Harvey
Has there been a major pop group more concerned with exploring personal anxieties, aspirations, and narratives through music defined so fundamentally by religious themes? The turmoil and paranoia of the last decade—wars, attacks, economic crashes, myriad color-coded fears—run through Arcade Fire’s three full-length records: Funeral, Neon Bible, and The Suburbs. The newest effort induces a tour of previous decades, when suburbia seemed (but only seemed) to offer placidity and refuge from the wilderness downtown.
From their debut, Funeral, and then most obviously and grandiosely in their last production, Neon Bible, religious desire, frustration, and anger define the lyrics. For some of the band’s critics, the group lays it on a bit thick. On Neon Bible, a crashing church organ accompanies a song about crippling inhibition and self-consciousness:
My body is a cage
that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
but my mind holds the key
set my body free, set my spirit free...
And a symphonic explosion of sound highlights the climax to “Intervention”:
Been working for the church while your life falls apart
been singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart