Thursday, August 02, 2007


Neon Bible: The Tribute Album

by Wayne Robins

In this endless summer of tributes, it was recently announced that
Cheap Trick will be taking the stage of the Hollywood Bowl to perform “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band” in its entirety—a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' revered yet nostalgia-riven album.

Not that many months ago, the Smithereens ("Meet the Smithereens") did a loyal rerecording of the 1964 album “Meet the Beatles.” Whether full album tributes are the last financial windfall for lazy hacks or a legitimate way to continue to refine rock's canon depends on the project. (I respect both Cheap Trick and the Smithereens but find it easy to live without either of their emulative efforts.)

But Arcade Fire, the band that put the “ear” back in “fear,” deserves a tribute of its own. Consider this a fantasy baseball lineup for a “Neon Bible” tribute, a fantasy since some of those selected are dead.

In the interest of avoiding the obvious, I have intentionally left out Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Talking Heads and others whose names have been dropped much too often in association with the music of this most original band.

Track 1. “Black Mirror.” Sonic Youth would take the songs rumbling undertow and turn it into an irresistible surge.

2. “Keep The Car Running.” As it glancingly invokes and firmly evokes “River Deep, Mountain High,” this is a natural for Ike & Tina Turner.

3. “Neon Bible.” Johnny Cash.

4. “Intervention.” The Band. The organ prelude is itself a tribute to Garth Hudson’s famed introduction to “Chest Fever”; Rick Danko and Richard Manuel would trade the anxious verses, with Levon Helm adding a harmony override.

5. “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations.” Brian Wilson sings and plays piano. Van Dyke Parks arranges and conducts the orchestra.

6. “Ocean Of Noise.” Marianne Faithfull could really nail the song’s desolation.

7. “The Well & the Lighthouse.” I keep wavering from Belle & Sebastian to Spoon, Simon & Garfunkel to Lily Allen.

8. “Antichrist Television Blues.” First I thought John Fogerty, who could play up the hint of zydeco. But a revision would be best with the caffeinated hard rock jolt of Pearl Jam.

9. “Windowsill.” I waver, but I think I like Amy Winehouse, backed by Oasis.

10. “No Cars Go.” This synth-pop beauty is a natural for Depeche Mode. But let Duran Duran star in the video.

11. “My Body Is A Cage.” The most atypical song on the album led to a frenzy of free association. Iggy Pop. Vic Chessnut. Mavis Staples. Prince. Daniel Johnston. Blind Willie McTell. Taj Mahal. But then it became clear: The song would be enshrined by the voice and spirit of Jeff Buckley.

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