The Suburbs – Arcade Fire (2010)

Verdict – 9.4


The third album by Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire tried finding a balance between the devastating but gorgeous Funeral and the more, art rock, grand statements of Neon Bible. By far their longest album, the strength in The Suburbs is the same which made their debut so effective, their ability to portray and imply a general theme throughout the entire album. As said by lead singer Win Butler, the album “is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it’s a letter from the suburbs”, and the album backs that concept, as you feel submerged in the naïveté of growing up, and the memories of childhood. What is evident here is their addition of electro synths and their further backing of other lead singer, Regine Chassagne, as they explore more on their development as artists.

The album starts with the highlight, The Suburbs, which immediately sets the theme for the album, pondering about where all the those dreams and ideas you have a child disappear as you age, you begin to ‘move past the feeling’. Although deceptively upbeat due to light instrumentation, it remains the most haunting song on the album. The lyric detailing to ‘want a daughter while I’m still young… show her some beauty before all this damage is done’, is amazing, saying, how could he bring and raise a daughter in a world where they have nothing to live for and appreciate? Following that is another standout, Ready to Start, showing a definite rock edge to the album, about falling into a ‘suburban life’ where you live a life where you are no longer yourself. Contains the great but simple lyric, “I would rather be alone, then pretend I feel alright.”

 Rococo is the brilliantly clever examination of hipster identity in modern culture, showing their dislike towards those who proclaim their love for music, until the moment that music achieves success, highlighted by the lyric, “they build it up just to burn it back down.” Rococo was an 18th century artistic movement, which although displayed style and detail in abundance, was really devoid of true meaning. A perfect one-word takedown in song. On the lush Half Light II (No Celebration), the electro influence is shown to create one of the album’s most poignant songs. Narrates of one chasing their ‘half-lit’ dreams before those quickly collapsed, and returning to the home where they feel has changed dramatically since childhood (in which case it likely hasn’t, just maturity has set in). Another great lyric, “Pray to God I won’t live to see the death of everything that’s wild.”  

Suburban War continues the theme, as the options and pathways of life are given to us, our paths may differ to those you once cared so much for (You grew your hair, so I grew mine… You cut your hair, I never say you again), and the long term significance (All my friends, they don’t know me know). The stunning Deep Blue is the bleakest and darkest song on the record, wondering as to our significance in the future as the machines we create are performing at a level superior to our own, referencing the famous chess match between written software Deep Blue vs. chess genius Kasparov.

We Used to Wait, speaks of the pace of modern life and the lack of love and fulfillment we have become reduced to. We used to write letters to loved ones, clinging onto the hope and prospect of receiving these rare gifts, now we can only ‘hope that something pure can last’, as love has different expectations now. The album’s best track is the soaring Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) highlighting Chassagne’s vocal and airy synths. An optimistic outlook (in comparison to the rest of the record) to effectively close out the album, the hazy disco vibe and Knife-like vocal sets the stage for one of the best songs of 2010. The album-defining lyric, “They heard me singing and they told me to stop, quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.”

The songs may not be as sound or as perfect as the ones on Funeral, the impact a bit less invigorating, however, the collection of songs that is the The Suburbs, with its overarching theme, shows exactly why the band are one of the most exciting acts in modern music. As the closer loops to the opener, setting the monotonous effect that is a suburban life, they sing, “If I could have it back, all the time that we wasted, I’d only waste it again.” This is no longer naïveté, but the maturity of cherishing those moments that make you who you are.

Top Songs – The Suburbs, Ready to Start, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)


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