Sound Bytes: This Week’s Music Review

April 20, 2007 11:25 AM
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ARCADE FIRE
“Neon Bible”
MERGE RECORDS
After their monumental, romantic debut “Funeral,” Canada’s Arcade Fire seem to have reached inside themselves for their more muddied follow-up, “Neon Bible.” There’s still beauty here, but it’s of a dark, velvety variety. Songs such as “Windowsill” and “My Body Is a Cage” start small and build outward, yet rarely find a catharsis.
Only “No Cars Go” hearkens back to the sound of “Funeral,” with piles of strings and brass and a frontal drum assault. Win Butler’s lyrics remain dour, but look for that ever-elusive transcendence. On “Neon Bible” that lights seems even further away.
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OF MONTREAL
“Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?”
POLYVINYL RECORDS
“C’mon mood, shift back to good again!” sings Kevin Barnes on Of Montreal’s eighth full-length album. Main man Barnes manages to do so, as he mashes together disco-rhythm riffs with a psychedelic’s penchant for layered vocals and flowery instrumentation. This helps to cover lyrics of depression, suicide and rejection in a very jolly way. Recorded in Norway and Barnes’ hometown of Athens, Ga., the album is more a Barnes solo project than previous works. The album’s centerpiece is the 11-minute “The Past Is A Grostesque Animal,” a rambling rant about, well, who-knows-what, backed by Neu!-like electronics and a looping, cooing male chorus. If this is Barnes truly going off the deep end, then listeners will feel inclined to dive in, too.
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THE FALL
“Reformation Post T.L.C.”
NARNACK RECORDS
This is The Fall’s 26th official album in a 30-year run that has seen only one constant — lead vocalist Mark E. Smith’s caustic voice and enigmatic lyrics. The 2006 touring band — three good-to-go Yanks and one Greek wife on keyboard — unfortunately are undone by a studio recording that can’t match the sonic palette of 2005’s “Fall Heads Roll.” So we get a bit too many muddy jams, such as “Fall Sound” and “Systematic Abuse,” the obligatory cover (Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”), and studio goofs, “Insult Song” and the interminable “Das Boot.” If only more songs sounded like “Coach and Horses,” two minutes of tight riffery and time-travel lyrics. But, alas, they don’t. Now don’t worry, with The Fall, wait a year and the next album may be a masterpiece.

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