Funeral v. Neon Bible

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Wake Up from Funeral

With the end of 2009 only five weeks away, we are starting to see some "Best of Decade" lists popping up all over the interwebs. Here and Here are two good examples. Music lists probably get the most debate because there is so much music released and opinions can be quite vast regarding what is good or best, especially over a decade. Also over a 10 year span, popular musical tastes can change greatly and it is interesting to look back at what was considered great nine or ten years ago compared to current tastes (a great example of this is to compare music in 1960 to music in 1970; or 1985 to 1995).

Also it is inevitable when these lists are put together that an artist will only get one entry. This is usually done because there is limited space (top 20 or 50 albums, for example) and unless a band releases two incredible albums, one will usually get left off. Who can really blame the reviewer(s)? They don't want to be seen as a geek for one band, and a lot of time these lists are also used to show how broad one's tastes are. Doesn't mean we can debate the decisions. I might take on these debates over the next few weeks.

One thread I have seen in these lists is that Arcade Fire's 2004 album Funeral is getting listed (usually quite highly) instead of 2007's Neon Bible. Frankly I think both should be listed, but if you only had one to pick, which one would you pick?

Funeral is an obvious choice for best of decade considerations as it was highly received and universally loved when it was released. For Arcade Fire band members, the years leading up to the recording of Funeral were marked with death and many of the songs address the pain that follows the death of an aging loved one. As Pitchfork Media stated so well in it's review: "Funeral evokes sickness and death, but also understanding and renewal; childlike mystification, but also the impending coldness of maturity. The recurring motif of a non-specific "neighborhood" suggests the supportive bonds of family and community, but most of its lyrical imagery is overpoweringly desolate." Pretty deep stuff. The album is moody, it sweeps you up. It's great as background music but it is fantastic to listen to by yourself, getting overwhelmed by the music and evocative lyrics.

In 2007, Arcade Fire released Neon Bible and the pre-hype was over the top. Based on Funeral, expectations for Neon Bible was sky high and for the most part the reviews were glowing. Also much was made out of the band's purchasing of an old church near Montreal that was then converted into a recording studio. Neon Bible, although moody and atmospheric, is a different album than Funeral. Instead of looking inward and reflecting on death and "deep thoughts" Neon Bible is outward looking, focusing on worldly issues such as government, religion, the military, and even the entertainment industry. The music is propulsive, however, it doesn't erupt. Instead it gradually intensifies, coming to a satisfying crescendo by songs end.

So which is better? Both are great and it could be akin to asking a parent which child they love best. However, for me, Neon Bible is better. It basically comes down to the songs. Song for song, I think Neon Bible is best overall album. Whereas Funeral ends stronger, Neon Bible is good throughout. Both deserve consideration as among the decade's best, but Neon Bible should be rated higher.

What do you think?

10 Comments

I've always liked Neon Bible better but most people I know like Funeral better. It seems to me that Neon Bible has better stand-alone songs than Funeral.

i agree with the reasons that funeral was chosen over neon bible in the av club write-up. also agree with algonad. better songs on neon bible, but better whole on funeral.

I like Arcade Fire but would describe myself as only a casual fan. I enjoy both of their releases but find both of them a little uneven. Maybe I haven't tried hard enough but I find my attention wanders over the course of an entire CD. That said, I thought the songs on the first one where a little more fully realized. I have a feeling that some of the less structered numbers on Neon Bible would reward more in depth listening so please take my comments with a grain of salt. I haven't seen them live and I hear that's where they really shine.

By the way, here's another end of the decade list to consider, if you like that sort of thing. Yes, this one advocates for Britney Spears and Norah Jones so everyone will find something to vehemently disagree with. I love reading these things. Arbitrary and subjective by nature, I never agree with them but occasionally get tips on artists I haven't yet heard.

http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=37

I had this very discussion just last week with a few pals. Four friends, two votes for each album. Put me in the Neon Bible camp though.

with my ipod i tend not to listen to albums/disks/releases (what d'ya call it these days) straight through. but, i have to say, i like the polish of the neon bible songs better. the funeral songs show a talented band, but neon bible shows that the band is not a flash in the pan and perhaps have long careers ahead of them. free, like list 1 (link to list 2 didn't work for me). can't disagree with too much on the list, but rankings are abit off (in rainbows?) also, i will send anyone, postage paid, my copy of lcd soundsystem. terrible. it probably gets high praise from the nyc critics. have to check out folker. glad to see wilco with such a high ranking.

Neon Bible fan, but both rank highly in my 'best of decade' list that I'll get around to posting one of these days.

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