Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Arcade Fire
The Suburbs

(Merge)

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2011, Volume 18, #2

Written by John Metzger

Tue February 8, 2011, 06:30 AM CST

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Arcade Fire stumbled slightly on its 2007 set Neon Bible, but at least the group took its mistakes to heart. Following in the footsteps of Funeral and Neon Bible, its latest set The Suburbs is a work that is both ambitious and conceptual. It is filled with grandiose songs that somehow manage to stay true to the bandís established vision while also coalescing into a record that sounds decidedly different from either of its predecessors. Without question, The Suburbs moves Arcade Fire significantly closer to the objective of transforming itself from an indie outfit into a legacy act. Some fans may cry at this suggestion, though the fact that Pitchfork hasnít yet turned its back on the collective has kept most of them in line.

Where Arcade Fireís previous endeavors explored the topics of death and religion, The Suburbs uses a broader lens to examine the lives of teens and twenty-something post-adolescents. At its core, the album is about growing older as well as the increasingly difficult search for an identity in the modern age. A sense of nostalgia permeates the affair, one that not only pines for a time that might not be as perfect as it once seemed, but also fuels the generational divide that now separates the members of the band from the youngest of their fans. Likewise, Arcade Fire ponders the impact that an increasingly homogenous world has upon a population. As street after street and block after block begin to look identical, it becomes more challenging to find oneís place, making alienation and disconnection ever harder to escape.

Musically, Arcade Fire once again has crafted an album filled with aspiring anthems. Some are disquietingly tense; others sound like wild, late-night celebrations. Clearly, the band brought its melodies, arrangements, and lyrics together in a way that was designed specifically to reach across the wider expanses of the venues in which it now is forced to perform. Borrowing heavily from David Bowie, The Cure, and Moby, the songs frequently derive their transcendence from their pounding beats and sing-along choruses. Rococo is a churning, mechanical march, and the title track is a jaunty strut. Elsewhere, Month of May rages with punk-fueled intensity, while Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains) turns its disco groove into a heady concoction that begs for a myriad of remixes.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of The Suburbs is how neatly all of its songs are tied together. Lyrics and melodies are repeated; arrangements are recycled. Yet, the material neither feels forced nor does it grow stale. Instead, every track on The Suburbs builds upon its predecessor, and inevitably they congeal into an outing that is considerably more cohesive and fulfilling than rock operas generally turn out to be.

Considering The Suburbs is only the third album that Arcade Fire has made, it is too early to tell if the outfit can continue to evolve while also maintaining the same level of brilliance it already has achieved. Even so, every time it seems as if as if Arcade Fire has reached as far as it can, the ensemble has found ways of defying expectations and moving its ambitions forward. In an age where everything ó including the works of indie acts ó sounds recycled and uniformly sterile, Arcade Fire has managed to thrive. starstarstarstar

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Of Further Interest...

Ray LaMontagne - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise

Radiohead - In Rainbows

M. Ward - Hold Time

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The Suburbs is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2011 The Music Box