Review Summary: Yet another excellent record from the "indie heroes."
Have you read a music magazine or blog since 2004? If so, you know who Arcade Fire is. Ever since the notorious 9.7 Pitchfork rating of the band’s debut album, Funeral, they have been at or near the top of the independent music world. Its follow-up was no flop, either: 2007's Neon Bible debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and, to many, is just as good. Led by the husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Règine Chassagne, Arcade Fire’s every move has been followed since that review and not just because of the demand from P4k-obsessed music geeks - the band is talented as hell and deserves all of the attention they get.
The Suburbs, the much-anticipated third album from the Montreal septet, is one that’s based upon the concept itself. However, this album isn’t promoting the ‘burbs; it’s relegating them. Like the artwork included in the album’s packaging, Win Butler’s lyrics often paint a dreary picture of suburbia and the people in them: he bashes hipster kids in “Rococo” and sings of teenage boredom in “Wasted Hours.” Always honest and often emotional in his delivery, Butler fits personal memories and wishes into the mix, too: the 30-year-old yearns for a daughter while he's still young, as noted on the opening title track and seems to complain about stardom while desiring for an improved relationship on "Ready to Start." If he really did make an album displaying his emotions since 2009, like how he sang that he wanted to on "Month of May," he must be pretty bummed out.
As cohesive an album as it is, I don't know if The Suburbs needs to be 63 minutes. I understand that a concept album may necessitate a longer length to fully exhibit the "big idea" of the given topic, but that idea could have been condensed by five to ten minutes or so. That may just be my opinion, but this LP is undoubtedly the most immediate in the Arcade Fire's catalog; it won't take listens upon listens to fully grasp like its predecessors did. The instrumentation on Funeral and Neon Bible is rather hefty, but this record seems much more stripped-down. Fewer orchestral arrangements (some provided by Owen Pallett) and, simply, fewer instruments being played at one time make it easier to digest. In addition to the more straighforward, straight up rock tracks like "Ready to Start" and "Month of May," the electro-sounding "Half Light II (No Celebration)" and "Sprawl II" provide a nice contrast to the album.
A lot of the discussion surrounding The Suburbs will be about which Arcade Fire release is the greatest. I'm undecided. Those aforementioned P4k lovers may say Funeral, but it should just be a matter of personal opinion; I think they're all matched pretty evenly. I'm sure that hardcore fans would like to see material be released on more of a regular basis, but one thing remains certain in my mind about Arcade Fire: this band won't let you down.