by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Neon Reformation & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f this column has a persistent theme, it's that the Internet makes musicians (and people who make money off musicians) do crazy things. From mp3 player wars to the lawsuit madness of the recording industry to Radiohead's brilliant marketing strategy for the new In Rainbows, a subtext of lunacy runs throughout. I didn't plan it that way, everyone's just gone nuts. The world is a profoundly and forever changed place with the Internet. It's changed our ideas of distance and time and value -- monetary, aesthetic, you name it. That's a lot to wrestle with. And while bands and musicians have been diving into the financial implications of the new medium, most have been hands-off with the artistic consequences.
The Arcade Fire toed reluctantly into those waters this week with www.beonlineb.com, an interactive video for their song "Neon Bible."
An inscrutable marching dirge -- short, image-filled and repetitious -- it's the kind of song you could write a term paper about. The video, though, featuring singer Winn Butler's disembodied head and hands, manipulable with mouse clicks, defies comment.
A quick run-through and haphazard clicking -- making Butler's hands spout rain; making his head disappear -- yields a unique insight into the song. A second time, though -- now the click's manipulating tarot cards and grabbing for balls of light -- conjures totally different perceptions.
By allowing the viewer to interact in a non-linear way, the video subtly changes -- or rather, focuses on different -- narrative and image patterns in the song itself. It's freaky, and enthralling for about 10 minutes.
It's less a new form of art than a new, more personal way to interact with existing art. There are flaws, of course. The video isn't immersive, and it's confusing at first. The thing as a whole, though, feels like a wild stab at newness. A brazen, disturbing stab.