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Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Image For Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

The vaunting ambition of Arcade Fire always cried out for stadia filled with the converted, armies of believers willing to share in their vision. After a debut record as revelatory as Funeral, nothing less than adoration and communal euphoria seemed fitting. Their success felt right, it felt natural and deserved. Their live shows often seemed less like promotional tours than religious awakenings.

All this makes The Suburbs a record with considerable baggage. How do you follow up perfection? Where do you go from epic songs of soaring passion? This record never tries to match its towering forebears for size or ambition. It is instead something of a curveball in an already storied body of work. It turns away from grandeur and elation and opts for something smaller. These are songs of suburban boredom, ennui and frustration. It is quiet and disappointed, but never quite defeated.

Initially, The Suburbs seems the most conventional Arcade Fire record, the most reliant on songcraft. The title track for instance, is not so far removed from ‘70s AM, though the haunted flashes of falsetto introduce an unsettling element into what could have been overly familiar. Even more muted is Suburban War which shuffles along with images of alienation (“This town’s so strange”), threatens to explode into a passionate peak, then recedes again and finally finishes with a backdrop of faint claustrophobia and encroaching noise.

Only rarely does The Suburbs noisily rage against the relentless mediocrity of dead-end streets and ghost town malls it describes. This prevailing sense of restraint makes The Month of May stand out all the more, as it buzzes with anger: “Some things are pure and some things are right / But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight”. Mostly, though, the anger is bubbling underneath; on Deep Blue it is murky and hypnotic and on City With No Children it is there as nostalgia turns to regret.

Conceptually tighter than the somewhat uneven Neon Bible, this record sees songs divided into fragments and lyrics recur throughout the record. This only adds to the inertia described, and in a song like Roccoco, which could just as easily be about indie scene insularity as local boredom, they make a virtue of inaction and repetition, riffing on the title and turning it into the album’s most effective vocal hook.

The characters of The Suburbs constantly yearn for somewhere better, even if they’re not sure where that might be. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Wasted Hours: “We’re still driving around and around / All we see are kids in buses / longing to be free”. But it is typically enigmatic on an escape route from this nothingness, anti-climatically ending with the promise of a “life we can live”.

On Month of May Win Butler’s urgency is palpable as he sings “2009, 2010, Wanna make a record about how I felt then”, but it actually makes more sense to think of The Suburbs as a kind of prequel to Funeral. This could be the soundtrack of the band before they learned to mould suburban boredom into something as affecting as Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels); before they created something transcendent out of sheer force of will, reasoning that sometimes if you yearn for greatness and meaning the best way to get it is to create it yourself.

The Suburbs is a different kind of record for Arcade Fire, subtle and slow-burning where previously they had been spectacular. But it may be their may be their greatest trick yet: a record all about boredom which manages to be kind of thrilling.

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Daniel_Herborn

Daniel_Herborn said on the 29th Jul, 2010

aargh...neighbourhood #1 (tunnels)

Yaki

Yaki said on the 29th Jul, 2010

Fantastic review mate. Can't wait to hear it with this in mind.

doubtfulsounds

doubtfulsounds said on the 29th Jul, 2010

nice review, doesn't overstate the case which I sense many will... love the title track.

SuperFurry

SuperFurry said on the 29th Jul, 2010



ha! that sounds familiar - the cry of someone who proofed his article 50 times only to have an obvious error leap out when the review was posted.

great review - a pleasure to read.

lukey26

lukey26 said on the 29th Jul, 2010

It's good. Much better than I thought it would be :)

tfbr37

tfbr37 said on the 29th Jul, 2010

listened for the first time today and it was a pleasure - it's going to be a real grower in fact, one where you find new bit and pieces on every listen. i expect it will be amazing live too.
it seems somewhat rare nowadays to find such a tight concept album and i really love this one. i read somewhere comparing it to 'ok computer.' i did scoff a bit (and part of me also giggled with excitement), but after listening a few times you can understand the similarities - not so much in sound, but in substance and fluidity.

rodismdotcom

rodismdotcom said on the 29th Jul, 2010

By all reports from people I know who has heard it - should put them into the bigtime

miss edith

miss edith said on the 29th Jul, 2010

i'm lovin' it. it's a grower, but the best records are. great progression for the band, and fits perfectly with their previous albums.

sarcasm_mister

sarcasm_mister said on the 29th Jul, 2010

absolutely love this album. quite different from their other 2 but equally as brilliant. cant wait to get my hands on the physical cd on the 2nd. the melodies and lyrics on this album are some of the best the band has ever come up with. musically i didnt think it was as impressive and it lacked a single epic track although Suburban War comes close but with tracks like ready to start and we used to wait they compensated for that. despite being over an hour in length it never feels like a drag. not quite sure about it being my album of the year but it is mighty good.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 29th Jul, 2010

I bought it at JB Hi-fi today.

Grupil

Grupil said on the 29th Jul, 2010

i bought it at jb hi-fi today. dah i tie my own shoes

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 29th Jul, 2010

^ If that was an attempt to pay me out, I was referencing the fact that most people were under the impression that the album didn't come out until today.

Grupil

Grupil said on the 30th Jul, 2010

dah i'm under the impression that da album works best when put in the record player and not in my refridgerator

samthewoman

samthewoman said on the 2nd Aug, 2010

grupil, i genuinely think you are hilarious.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 2nd Aug, 2010

Almost as good as Funeral and I am not exaggerating. "Half Light II" is fantastic! It sounds like it could have been written in the height of the 80's but I think that "Ready To Start" is still my favourite.

shazie

shazie said on the 2nd Aug, 2010



The flow from "Suburbs" into "Ready To Start" is such a great start to the album. I wonder how much they'll play from the new album when they come down.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

I know, it's just such a beautiful album as one would expect from Arcade Fire but I'm just so happy with the way that it turned out. They have a great formula going and they have stuck to it with a sense of the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" sentiment. They haven't tried to go electronic as so many bands these days do because it seems like the cool thing to do and usually that ends up going all kinds of wrong or haven't delved into other experiments or genres that don't work for them.

I hope they'd play "The Suburbs", "Ready To Start", "Modern Man", "Rococo", "City With No Children", "Suburban War", "Month of May", "We Used To Wait"

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

This is probably my favourite album so far this year.

Enjoyed it immensely from the first listen.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

im keen to get into arcade fire but every time i try i get sidetracked. i try putting on neon bible at work and i dont think i like it very much , but its at work so its hard to say.

im just listening to some of the suburbs on youtube now, and im actually digging it.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

Listen to Funeral.

Skip to track 7 and listen to Wake Up, Haiti, and Rebellion (Lies). If you don't like those three songs then The Arcade Fire isn't for you.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

thanks, good recommendations, i liked those tracks, and i really liked what ive heard of the suburbs, ill purchase them both next week probably and see how i go , might try giving neon bible a shot again at work as well.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 3rd Aug, 2010

In a month or two I may be calling this my favourite album of the year.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 4th Aug, 2010

I am now and it will take a lot for anything to beat it!

Daft Punks Lip Sweat

Daft Punks Lip Sweat said on the 5th Aug, 2010



I'd be expecting something very similar to this


1. Ready to Start
2. Month of May
3. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
4. No Cars Go
5. Haïti
6. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
7. We Used to Wait
8. Intervention
9. Modern Man
10. The Suburbs
11. Deep Blue
12. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
13. Rebellion (Lies)
14. Half Light II (No Celebration)
15. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Encore:
16. Keep the Car Running
17. Wake Up

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 6th Aug, 2010

'Rococo' seems to be one of their favourite new ones to play. They played 'Ready to Start', 'Rococo' and 'Month of May' when I saw them at Werchter. All sounded pretty good*.


*This is based on the whole set sounding good.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 6th Aug, 2010

Is anyone watching the live broardcast from their Madison Square Garden show?!
http://www.youtube.com/ArcadeFireVivo

sarcasm_mister

sarcasm_mister said on the 6th Aug, 2010

^^

yeah i watched the entire webcast. brilliant live act. i cant quite put my finger on what form their next aus tour will take. festival tour with sideshows? headline tour? support for U2? play one night in each city at big rooms or several nights in small venues?

which ever it is it will be an incredible show.

Alexphotosite

Alexphotosite said on the 6th Aug, 2010

^^

yeah i watched the entire webcast. brilliant live act. i cant quite put my finger on what form their next aus tour will take. festival tour with sideshows? headline tour? support for U2? play one night in each city at big rooms or several nights in small venues?

which ever it is it will be an incredible show.

They let slip to the Doctor on JJJ that they'll be doing the same thing they did here in 2008. So BDO with sideshows. Given the scale of that stage set up I'd say they'd be looking at playing larger venues like the Hordern etc...

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 12th Aug, 2010

Arcade Fire lands it's first number 1 album (in the UK and US)

http://www.avclub.com/articles/arcade-fire-lands-its-first-no-1-album,44041/

grattan

grattan said on the 19th Nov, 2010

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs. A video by Spike Jonze.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HklplrJxEOY

lukey26

lukey26 said on the 27th Dec, 2010

I've said it once, I'll say it again: Best album of 2010. C'mon and tour already...

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 27th Dec, 2010



Kanye West made The Suburbs?

Burnt Bridges

Burnt Bridges said on the 28th Dec, 2010

really great album, definitely one of the best albums of 2010 for sure