Arcade Fire
The Suburbs


4.0
excellent

Review

by Chris Baranowski USER (8 Reviews)
January 4th, 2011 | 24 replies | 4,581 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Both timeless and contemporary, urgent and meditative, The Suburbs is an important step for a band who could have fallen out of touch.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

There’s something about that final triumphant violin melody in “Rebelion (Lies),” off Arcade Fire’s debut LP Funeral, that makes it sound instantly nostalgic and timeless. It’s like it’s some melody that you heard when you were a child that you are now finally rediscovering. Funeral is full of melodies like that. The group has a way of writing songs that can somehow sound like classics, melodies hummed and repeated by music listeners for centuries.

On The Suburbs, the band wanders back from the ambitious diversity and dynamic experimentation of Neon Bible to the more traditional structure and approach of Funeral. More than ever before, Arcade Fire sounds like a compact, tight band. Even more noticeable is Win Butler’s assumption of the role as ‘the frontman.’ The Springsteen comparisons, rooted in tracks like “Keep The Car Running,” are even more apparent on The Suburbs. I swear to god when Butler sings, “dreamt I drove home to Houston” on “City With No Children,” it sounds exactly like Springsteen, the lyrics even drawing on the same Americana roots found on Born In The USA (ironically, they’re Canadian). Though the symphonic violins and pianos are still found throughout the album, exaggerating each songs’ melancholy melodies, the focus is more on the traditional guitar, bass, and drums set up. Take the end of “Modern Man,” where dual guitars blend and harmonize to make a riff that Broken Social Scene would be jealous of, or “Month Of May,” an unashamed, energetic punk rallying call that prepares us for the record’s breathtaking final stretch.

And despite the band’s knack for writing timeless songs that recall somber memories of some lost decade, on The Suburbs, they still manage to sound so contemporary. Whether it’s the piano-driven saloon rock of the title track, which calls to mind bands like The Good Life or Okkervil River, or the heavy folk thump of “Wasted Hours, which screams Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire imitates and draws upon the music of their peers in a way that is distinctly theirs.

Some of the criticism about The Suburbs concerns its lyrical content. Butler ponders questions of mortality, innocence, love and loss within the context of homogeneous American suburb. We enter the emotional wasteland of the sprawl. It was the dark lyrics and generally darker feel of Neon Bible that turned off many fans to the bands second album. The Suburbs is more true to Funeral. Yes, the music is often dark but there are those beautiful, uplifting melodies, like the ones in “Suburban War” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," that make the album more bearable and fluid.

To me, a more valid criticism is one that examines Butler’s vocal delivery. Although his lyrics and melodies are still superb, the intensity that he once exhibited on Funeral is nearly absent. The yelps and pained screams of songs like “Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)” or Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” are gone. Only “Ready To Start” and “Rococo” have an intensity that warrants comparison to his earlier vocal performances. The latter is the album’s finest track. The drums beat out a heavy solider march while violins swell and the guitars explode into perhaps the heaviest progression in the band’s repetoire.

“2009, 2010, wanna make a record like I felt then.” Normally, I would cringe at such a self-referential and fourth-wall-breaking lyric. But when Win Butler shouts it on the cathartic standout “Month of May” over pounding, blaring guitars, I not only enjoy it but also want to commend Butler for his achievement in doing so. I don’t think The Suburbs fully embodies everything we felt in 2009 and 2010. But its themes of emotional sprawl, uniformity and soul searching, are nevertheless instantly relatable and perhaps more connected to our overall situation than we think. But The Suburbs comes at a time in the band’s career when it was incredibly important to show that they were in touch (or as Carles would put it, “still relevant”). The album’s contemporary influence pairs well with the band’s general timelessness to create an album that is relatable, powerful and successfully ambitious. The Suburbs is a solidification of the band’s importance and a celebration of their unique and beautiful style.



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user ratings (1957)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Cragorio (4)
    Being trapped in the suburbs isn't necessarily a bad thing....

    urnamz2longfixit (4)
    Cut the lights, crawl into your bed, play this and enjoy....

    sulky (4.5)
    shots from the hippo....

    YetAnotherBrick (5)
    Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is a near-flawlessly put together concept album, revolving aroun...

  • Alec Martin (5)
    Is it Album of the Year? Hell yes....

    NigelH (5)
    2009, 2010. Wanna make a record how I felt then....

    Chris Davanzo (4)
    Arcade Fire tries yet again to escape the "Neighborhoods."...

    rmill3r (4)
    The Suburbs is beautiful and grand, just like you'd expect from them so far. It may come d...

  • Ciaran McManus (4)
    Although at times it loses itself, The Suburbs is an immersive and rewarding experience...

    Mike Madden (4)
    Yet another excellent record from the "indie heroes."...

    Dominic Mercurio (4)
    An album with heart. It’s not drastically different from their previous work, but feels...

    WoebegoneWanderer (2)
    The inevitable fall, the sound of a band losing its direction and personality. Altogether,...

  • robin EMERITUS (3.5)
    how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?...

    Tyler Fisher EMERITUS (4)
    Win Butler’s open letter to the white suburban kid works like a baseball bat to the head...


Comments:Add a Comment 
cvlts
January 4th 2011



8954 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Arcade Fire’s debut LP [i]Funeral,

urr

cbmartinez
January 4th 2011



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hmm it's been a while, how do i get italic tags?

also, i did this as a write up for my year end list for my blog but i thought it was good enough to be its own review. feedback on that?

cvlts
January 4th 2011



8954 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

close it with a /

Foxhound
January 4th 2011



4570 Comments


that summary

cbmartinez
January 4th 2011



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is it < i > and then to close it < / i >

Satellite
January 4th 2011



20727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

like this

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

Satellite
January 4th 2011



20727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

no, it's BBCode. use brackets instead of < and >

http://www.bbcode.org/reference.php

cbmartinez
January 4th 2011



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks

Foxhound
January 4th 2011



4570 Comments


awwww ur telliin him all the secrets

CrownOfMagnets
January 4th 2011



2248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Satellite, you're a genius.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 4th 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

cbmartinez is old school nice to see him back

I like this album lots. I've grown to appreciate it for what it is and not compare it to Funeral which is just a stupid thing to do.

Satellite
January 4th 2011



20727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Joined 08-16-03

whoa.

Foxhound
January 4th 2011



4570 Comments


2005 and 500 alts whats up bra

Satellite
January 4th 2011



20727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i started lurking in like early '06 (if you remember intransit, he told me about this site).

no alts though.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 4th 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i do remember intransit, he was pretty coo. what happened to him?

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 4th 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

by the way, to get back on topic, the review is great. definitely too good to be a blurb in a year end list

i pretty much agree except that I haven't heard Neon Bible

Satellite
January 4th 2011



20727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he just occasionally lurks now i think. i told him to start posting again but he said he retired and came back more times than brett favre.

last i knew he was doing interviews for national underground.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 4th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, especially for a fifth. Have a pos.

Slum
January 4th 2011



2579 Comments


Their albums never really hit me like they apparently did to everybody else, but the title track on here is fantastic

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
January 4th 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pff too cool for sputnik I guess. whatever his loss obviously



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