Arcade Fire

Neon Bible (Merge Records)

"It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," Springsteen once told us, and the Arcade Fire took this credo to the bank with its debut Funeral, a spin of which makes any good indie rocker yell, "Oh! The humanity!" If that one were a zeppelin accident, glorious and grim and loud and moving, the band's follow-up, Neon Bible, collects sounds from the wreckage: deflated, dismal, and not as interesting as the conflagration that preceded it. The group is now honoring the Boss by trying to sound like him, and it's not a good fit. Jersey bar-rock and mournful Americana is not built from clavicles, glockenspiels, and 18th-century pipe organs, nor should it be.

Neon Bible works best when the Arcade Fire sticks with the rousing, full-orchestra histrionics + lyrics about alienation and despair formula, which once earned it the adoration of all bloggers everywhere. "Intervention" uses that giant pipe organ to perfect effect, adding strings, guitars, glock, and counter-harmonies, amping up the drama and pathos verse by verse, until you can barely resist pumping your fist in the air like, well, like you were hearing "Born to Run" for the very first time. Frances Reade

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