“The Suburbs” – Arcade Fire (Joint Review)
Okay. I had a totally different reaction to my counterpart after hearing this album. “The Suburbs” is not an album to expect grander from, it’s an album from a band that has stepped back and taken a moment to reflect on their past (in particular Win Butler’s). It’s one of the most anticipated album’s for a long time and it’s sure to divide critics and fans, although I tend to think that most may love it.
For me, Funeral is one of the best albums ever made. If I give someone who has never listened to Arcade Fire a song to start with, I’d go straight to Neighborhood #1, and then I’d go to Neighborhood #2, and so on… The songs are grand in songwriting and while Neon Bible is a better piece of production, it just doesn’t compare with Funeral. So you ask, “What does a band do when they’ve made their “masterpiece”?”, well, I’m not sure what the answer is, but Arcade Fire obviously do.
While Funeral was written in response to a death and Neon Bible was written in response to the band’s growing concern with war, The Suburbs is a retrospective view of Win Butler’s childhood (and childhood in general). It focuses on naivety and also about growing up, but overall it’s about the mistakes made as a child. The Suburbs has a continuity in it’s lyrics that is extraordinary. if you have ever heard The Decemberists’ Hazards of Love, it’s similar to the technique used in that, but instead of repeating guitar riffs and licks they repeat lyrics from the title track throughout the album.
Yeah, so I should probably get to the actual music. The tracks melt into each other, which means it’s an album that is made for a start to finish listen. And while the album length is a bit on the long side, it’s still a good listen through. The songs are very simple, but generally have a little change-up, Modern Man is a great example of this, it has a very unconventional time signature and keeps the listener interested in what is essentially a three chord song.
The title track The Suburbs is a good song to analyse. My counterpart wrote that it reminded him of Eskimo Joe, there’s a reason for this… When I first heard I thought to myself, “wait a sec, did Arcade Fire rip-off The Sleepy Jackson?”, it’s uncanny, Eskimo Joe actually jammed a lot with The Sleepy Jackson, and it obviously had an impact on Eskimo Joe’s songwriting. It’s got the same feel and a similar chord progression, but it’s ultimately a totally different song. But nonetheless, if you’re intrigued The Sleepy Jackson is fronted by the enigmatic Luke Steel (half the creative mind of Empire of the Sun and brother to Katy Steel of Little Birdy), they’ve released two albums and I would definitely recommend them to anyone. Anyways, back to The Suburbs. All I can say is that it’s a great track that uses it’s simplicity to it’s advantage.
Ready To Start is an instant classic for Arcade Fire, it’s very similar to Rebellion (Lies) but fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. It’s the only song on the album that genuinely blows you away (it gave me chills down my spine), it builds and reaches a crescendo that is quite stunning. Suburban War is also another highlight, but ultimately it’s an whole album over individual tracks.
So where does The Suburbs sit in the Arcade Fire discography, well it’s an almost flawless album, that doesn’t quite have the quality in songs as Funeral did, but for me it’s a more focused effort than Neon Bible. The album’s too long in my opinion, maybe the problem is that the band had too much to say, but regardless this is an album that people will look back on and hold it in the same high regard as Arcade Fire’s previous efforts.
Reviewers Pick: “Ready To Start”
Stand-out Tracks: “Ready To Start”, “Suburban War”, “We Used To Wait”, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, “The Suburbs”, “Modern Man”