Review ·

“Sometimes I can’t believe it/ I’m moving past the feeling,” Win Butler sings a few moments into the winsome title track to Arcade Fire’s excellent third album, The Suburbs. We know that this guy is never “past” any feeling. He’s all feelings, all the time. Just a minute after singing that line, he worries about a suburban war and begs for a daughter to show “some beauty before all this is done.” It’s business as usual in Arcade Fire land after three years since releasing Neon Bible. It just so happens that business involves making albums that are among the most emotionally resonant -- and not to mention classic -- of the last half-century.

 

We've heard a million times that Funeral was about death, and it was at least widely understood that Neon Bible was probably about something else. (Religion? Probably.) This time out, the album title again indicates what Butler and company are concerned with. But it’s not the same soul-crushing suburbs of Revolutionary Road or its imitators. Butler positions the suburbs as a place that on one hand breeds nostalgia -- he and brother Will grew up in the outskirts of Houston -- and on the other leads him to worry about their uniformity.

 

This is a sprawling, 16-track album about the emptiness of the sprawl, about how you never see kids playing outside in the ‘burbs, about losing friends to complacency, about modern man’s loss of individuality, about loneliness and fear and the me-first rush of modern life, about worrying that kids aren’t rebellious enough, about war and wanting to feel something. “Something don’t feel right,” Butler sings on “Modern Man,” “In line for a number but you don’t understand.” Those kinds of sentiments could come off as treacle in other hands, but they tie in thematically with multiple threads here -- accepting that wasted time is sometimes more meaningful than the stuff that “matters” (the lush “Wasted Hours”) and waiting for something better (the excellent “We Used to Wait For It”). And every theme in every song ties to another song in the same way. This is probably the most complete Arcade Fire album in that each song is but a part of the larger presentation.     

 

For all the over-arching themes, The Suburbs is the most rocking Arcade Fire album yet. The frantic grooves and sermonizing of “Month of May” form the first Arcade Fire song likely to inspire fist pumping. The Regine Chassigne-sung “Sprawl II” imagines a world where Arcade Fire meets Depeche Mode meets the Knife circa “Heartbeats.” The off-on rhythms and the group harmonies of “We Used to Wait” build to a lighter-ready conclusion, while the pavement-cracking drums and instructions to “never trust a millionaire” of “City With No Children” is the most Bruce Springsteen-like Arcade Fire has ever gotten, beating the Hold Steady at its own game. From top to bottom, it’s hard to imagine that the people who deride this band for being too theatrical can keep saying that now.

 

Yet it all comes back to the thematic accomplishment here, doesn’t it? Arcade Fire, because they’re really this damn good, are among the very few indie bands that could attempt a 65-minute album about the philosophical quandaries of the suburbs and pull it off completely. At this point, they have no competition but themselves. No other band is this bold, this daring. As long as Arcade Fire is making records, the music world is a better place.

 

***

Band: http://www.arcadefire.com

Label: http://www.mergerecords.com

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/arcadefireofficial

 

  • The Suburbs
  • Ready to Start
  • Modern Man
  • Rococo
  • Empty Room
  • City With No Children
  • Half Light I
  • Half Light II (No Celebration)
  • Suburban War
  • Month of May
  • Wasted Hours
  • Deep Blue
  • We Used to Wait

If the Arcade Fire's year of relative silence following the wrap up of their Neon Bible tour wasn't evidence enough that they were up to something, the shock announcement of their third album, The Suburbs, surely was. The band and Neon Bible producer Markus Dravs hunkered down in New York and Montreal studios to work on songs over the course of two years. The result is a sprawling meditation on suburban life that finds the Canadian collective stretching their sound out into previously uncharted territories. Lean punk rock jostles for attention with rustic indie pop and dejected barrelhouse blues over The Suburbs' sixteen tracks. The Suburbs features eight different covers as well.

Effi Briest - Rhizomes Magic Kids Memphis
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track list added.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

thoughts on this album guys? i want more listens but it delivers

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

Amazing album. If you dont like it at the first listen give it 2 more tries. Its a grower.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif FacetheWL

I agree with FacetheWL. It really, really sunk in after the third listen I even love the Regine tracks.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Frosty/Kyle.jpg Kyle Lemmon

i'm on day 4 with this and i'm loving it more and more. "sprawl II" blows me away. it's an album that grows on you, and i think that when it's finally consumed you, you'll have no problem giving it a super high rating.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/michellegeslani/dsc_1022jpg.JPG michellegeslani

Well damn, looks like I'm going to have to spend the next few days with this one. Nice review, storf.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

In terms of themes I feel like its the most focused effort they've put out. And I agree with all the comments so far, I'm finding more and more to love about this with each listen.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Al/batmulletjpg.jpg Al

i bumped my score up. the more i listen the more i like too

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

Sheeeeeeeeeeeit. I tried to wait for my vinyl to come in the mail, didn't work out. after 2 listens I already love it.

h0gy

Awesome album.

So far , "We used to wait", "Modern Man" and "City with no children" are my favorites, those songs really grew on me.

rlaco

I've been listening to this album in halves. the first few listens i listened all the way through, now i'll listen to the first 8 tracks and then listen to the next 8 a few hours later. as cohesive as it is, it feels like 2 albums when you do it that way. i'd give this album a high 9. its beautiful.

Connor

I've been listening to this album on repeat since it came out.
That's how good it is.

It even made me cry. (We used to wait... OUCH!)

I wonder if the youngsters who grew up without knowledge of life before internet will feel the same emotional punch as us 25 and older people... Still... What a soul crush.

RL

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