The Arcade Fire, Dark and Energetic

The Arcade Fire put out a brilliant debut album in 2004's Funeral. They spent the better part of 2006 in a church outside Montreal, creating Neon Bible. Like their debut, the 10-piece band's music is full of percussion, strings and smart lyrics.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Arcade Fire ignited in 2004 with a much-lauded recording called Funeral. Many, who saw the 10-piece band in concert, walked away feeling they had just seen the future of rock 'n' roll. So expectations run high for the Montreal-based band's second album, "Neon Bible."

Tom Moon has a review.

TOM MOON: There's nothing small about the Arcade Fire.

(Soundbite of song, "Intervention")

MOON: The Arcade Fire spent most of 2006 developing the extra large sounds and songs of "Neon Bible." They set up in a church, and eventually recorded there. Singer and guitarist Win Butler brought in the songs, and with help from this band of seemingly rocket fueled, multi-instrumentalists, they created ingenious orchestrations.

When more than the band's few string players were needed, they flew to Hungary to record a 60-piece orchestra.

(Soundbite of song, "Intervention")

Mr. WIN BUTLER (Lead Singer, Arcade Fire): (Singing) Working for the church while my family dies. Your little baby sister's gonna lose her mind. Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home. Hear the soldier groan. We'll go it alone.

MOON: Many Arcade Fire songs talk about faith and what happens to ordinary people when their faith has been shattered. We've heard that before on countless rock anthems by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and others. But with the Arcade Fire, there's no redemption in the final verse, no easy escape out on the highway. Win Butler's lyrics are relentlessly grim. He's fixated on a bleak future. But all around him, the music is bursting with sunshine and big thrumming refrain that exude a contagious optimism.

(Soundbite of song, "Keep the Car Running")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) There's a weight that's pressing down. Late at night you can hear the sound. Even the noise you make when you sleep, can't swim across the river so deep. They know my name because I told it to them, but they don't know where and they don't know when it's coming, when it's coming.

MOON: Not every Arcade Fire song follows the typical pop script either.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Ms. REGINE CHASSAGNE (Singer and Multi-instrumentalist, Arcade Fire): (Singing) We can reach the sea. They won't follow me.

MOON: This one called "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" is a suite. It starts out with the singer and multi-instrumentalist, Regine Chassagne.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Ms. CHASSAGNE: (Singing) Run from the memory. (Singing in French)

MOON: After a few minutes of what would be any other band's great song, there's a break.

The tempo slows down and the whole theme shifts again into some of the most thrilling rock music of the last 20 years.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) Stop now before it's too late. Been eating in the ghetto on a dollar plate. Nothing lasts forever, that's the way it's got to be. There's a great black wave in the middle of the sea for me, for you, for me. It's always you.

MOON: There are lots of incredible things going on at once inside "Neon Bible." There's that massive triumphant sound, which seems to change every eight measures. And the Arcade Fire's radiant melodies, which help transform songs of disillusionment into uplift. Also, there's the sheer audacious ambition of the whole enterprise. The way these musicians take everything that's stirring about rock and pump it up until it's larger than life, and full of an electrifying creativity that's been missing for a long, long time.

NORRIS: The CD, "Neon Bible," is by the Arcade Fire. Tom Moon is our reviewer. You can hear these songs performed live at New York's Judson Memorial Church, at npr.org.

(Soundbite of "Antichrist Television Blues")

Mr. BUTLER: (Singing) I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No, I don't wanna work in a building downtown. I don't know what I'm gonna do, cause the planes keep crashing always two by two. I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No I don't wanna see when the planes hit the ground. I don't wanna work in a building downtown. No, I don't wanna work in a building downtown. Parking their cars...

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The Arcade Fire In Concert

Hear the Full Show Recorded Live in New York City

Neon Bible

The Arcade Fire: Neon Bible hide caption

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The Arcade Fire: Tim Kingsbury (from left) Jeremy Gara, Will Butler, Regine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, Win Butler and Sarah Neufeld. Win Butler hide caption

itoggle caption Win Butler
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The Arcade Fire: Tim Kingsbury (from left) Jeremy Gara, Will Butler, Regine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, Win Butler and Sarah Neufeld.

Win Butler

Listen: Band interview in Real Audio

Listen: Band interview in Windows Media

Language Advisory: This unedited concert recording contains language that is not suitable for all audiences. Opinions expressed are solely those of the artists.

Listen: Arcade Fire Fans Interviewed in Real Audio

Listen: Arcade Fire Fans Interviewed in Windows Media

Download the Concert

PC users left-click, Mac users ctrl-click and save or download the link to your computer.

The Arcade Fire's 2004 debut Funeral, was one of the decade's most remarkable rock albums. Now on the eve of releasing Neon Bible, their highly anticipated follow-up, the band visited New York's Judson Memorial Church for a full concert, originally webcast live on NPR.org Feb. 17, 2007.

The Arcade Fire formed in Montreal in 2003 around the husband-wife duo of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, with Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara. Funeral drummer Howard Bilerman has since left the band.

The Arcade Fire makes emotionally charged, densely layered and orchestrated songs, led by Butler's heartbreaking voice. They're known for unusually captivating live performances, with band members repeatedly changing instruments and scrambling over one another in a musical frenzy.

The band spent most of 2006 recording their self-produced new album in the basement of a church in a small town outside of Montreal. They also traveled to Budapest to record an orchestra and military choir. Collaborators include Martin Wenk and Jacob Valenzuela, the horn players from Calexico. Hadjii Bakara from Wolf Parade added some bleep and bloops and sonic weirdness. Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy, helped to orchestrate (as he did on Funeral). Pietro Amato and his horn playing associates added some brass.

Neon Bible is scheduled for release on March 5. But a number of tracks have already been leaked on the Internet. In December, iTunes inadvertently made the wrong advance track available in their online store, posting "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" instead of the band-approved song "Intervention." Apple eventually made the right track available, with all money from sales going to the Partners in Health charity.

In an online diary, Win Butler says "We decided to try and get a couple of songs out to people before the record leaks (which is inevitable), but keep in mind that the record is very much meant to be heard as a whole. That is why we leaked over 100 songs on Myspace.com as fake band names over the last year and then made a compilation of the 11 most popular songs and called it Neon Bible! You will hear the whole record in due time and I am sure it will all make sense."

Of the final push to get the album done, Butler says "we have probably worked harder in the last three months than in the rest of our lives combined. But we are really proud of the results. I can't wait for (fans) to hear it."

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