Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

2010-09-01 15:51
 Write what you know. Never fails. On Neon Bible, Arcade Fire stepped outside and took a picture. Win Butler wrote what he saw. The Suburbs, on the other hand, spills from his every pore. It lives because Win (and brother Will) experienced it. And luckily for him, so did a lot of other people. Good times and bad. Born in California, the Butlers grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Win Butler has described the album as a letter from the suburbs.

In a lot of ways, The Suburbs is a return to Arcade Fire’s earlier, pre-Neon Bible sound – less bombastic, less over-the-top, more personal. The lyrical themes, combined with the atmospheric tension of everything from modern synths to swirling strings and French horns, capture the pining, everyday whims of suburban life – the city looming in the background. The album reeks of isolation, loneliness and frustration. Being misunderstood. Wanting more. You can feel it in the music.

“Month of May” is surprisingly punk-rock and direct-sounding for Arcade Fire. “2009, 2010, wanna make a record how I felt then,” sings Win. You can just picture his younger incarnation listening to The Clash in his forced suburban stronghold, The Woodlands, dreaming of the world outside. Just as surprising, “Sprawl II” is almost straight-up electro synth-pop, with Régine Chassagne’s sweet vocals washing over a retro, Goldfrapp-ish, MGMT-like backdrop. “Ready to Start” is The Suburbs’ “Keep the Car Running,” with a strong whiff of The Cure.

“Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small that we can never get away from the sprawl. Living in the sprawl, dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains.”

Win Butler may claim to be a modern man, but with Arcade Fire, time is irrelevant. There’s an old-fashioned, vintage, baroque quality to them that’s hard to carbon date. Just to give you an idea, the band mastered each song to a 12-inch lacquer and then transferred them back for the digital master. So the digital version sounds as close to the vinyl version as possible. Unlike Neon Bible, The Suburbs is less-commentary, more meditation. There’s more tension. And as a result, it says so much more…

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The school I went to back in the suburbs is covered in barbed wire and steel fencing. There’s an intercom at the gate. The small park across the road from the local library is now a high-rise office block. It’s just down the road from the abandoned petrol station. And the open space where you could see the sea on the horizon’s now a giant shopping mall. Where Neon Bible felt saturated and heavy under the weight of its own self-importance, The Suburbs soars.

Johnathan 2010/08/31 9:42 AM
Excellent album. Just a pity it will never get any radio airplay in South Africa...
Slacker 2010/08/31 10:30 AM
Agreed Johnathan... here we are subjected to RnB drivel, silly 16 year olds with voices that have not broken and rap rubbish. Imagine a radio station that played Arcade Fire, Vampire weekend or anything like that. Well we can wish can't we...
Dirty Gav 2010/08/31 10:51 AM
I listen to TUKS FM 107.2fm. I live in Jooburg, but luckily my aerial is strong enough to pick it it up. Really good station. Lots of rock/metal/ alternative/punk etc.
Johnathan 2010/08/31 4:22 PM
Dirty Gav, I listen to TuksFM often. I can pick them up on my car's radio even as far as Krugersdorp. While Tuks mostly plays excellent music (probably because it's not a commercial station), I don't think I have ever heard them play Arcade Fire.
Lawrence 2010/09/01 9:46 AM
I can't listen to the local rubbish - if you want to hear Arcade Fire and other really good music - BBC6 Music is your station - playing the Pixies at the\6music
Slacker 2010/09/01 2:45 PM
Unfortunately I am in Cape Town, so no TuksFM for me... @lawerence, i will try out that link you posted, thanks!
Sean 2010/09/02 7:30 AM
Cape town listeners? UCT radio, monday afternoon, the rock show! 104.5 fm
Carl Judas Piek 2010/09/02 3:28 PM
I got the album 2 weeks ago and subsequently everyone I have given it to LOVES it! It has become daily bread. Have listen to the band since their E.P and the classics just keep coming. Glad to see they have veered away from the Neon Bible's esoteric overtones. LONG LIVE THE ARCADE FIRE!
Lawrence 2010/09/03 8:50 AM
BBC6 Music - Now playing Neighbourhood#1 (Tunnels) byt Arcade Fire. I rest my case :)
Lawrence 2010/09/03 8:50 AM
BBC6 Music - Now playing Neighbourhood#1 (Tunnels) by Arcade Fire. I rest my case :)
Lawrence 2010/09/03 8:50 AM
BBC6 Music - Now playing Neighbourhood#1 (Tunnels) by Arcade Fire. I rest my case :)
Lawrence 2010/09/03 8:51 AM
3 times apparently ...
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