Arcade Fire
The Suburbs


5.0
classic

Review

by NigelH USER (3 Reviews)
February 23rd, 2011 | 27 replies | 5,325 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 2009, 2010. Wanna make a record how I felt then.

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

On Arcade Fire’s dazzling debut, Funeral, the band lamented the death of close friends and family while managing to remain optimistic about life in general. This deft balance was played with great slight of hand. The music wasn’t bad either, as the band managed to blend classical flourishes with an indie-rock aesthetic into an irresistible concoction. Expectations were high for their 2007 follow-up, Neon Bible. Instead of making Funeral II, they went in a different direction, recording in an old church, and making a political, apocalyptic record with a much more symphonic and bombastic sound. While not all who loved Funeral were as smitten with Neon Bible, it was generally well received as an ambitious follow-up. Stakes were high for their third record. Would they fizzle out, sell out, cop out, or actually release another quality album? The answer is an overwhelming yes to the latter.

The disc runs long (about an hour), but this is forgiven because the band has given us a true concept album in the days of iTunes singles and ring tones, replete with seamless transitions between tracks, multi-song suites and song-within-song suites. The album’s concept is centered on the suburbs, the great American wasteland, if you will. While this might seem fairly commonplace at surface value, the band attacks this concept in many different ways. Some songs deal with the onslaught of technology in our modern world, while others express the loss of innocence and childhood in exchange for the realities of adult life. Others address the battle between conforming to the American dream and doing what one truly wants to do, while the capitalistic sprawl of strip malls and cookie-cutter houses also is given notice. This makes for a fascinating, multi-faceted listen with great emotional resonance.

The sound of The Suburbs represents everything great about Arcade Fire but tightened up, and polished for maximum appeal. Not maximum appeal in the sense of mindlessly pandering to the mainstream, but rather, streamlined to the point where they sound more like a true rock band, and less like a bunch of rock musicians playing with a miniature orchestra. While that rag-tag orchestral aspect of their sound is what drew many to them in the first place, it would have been nothing had the songs been bunk. However, on the Suburbs, the songs are as sharp as ever, surpassing many cuts on Neon Bible, and even Funeral. The music itself is sprinkled with an intense sense of nostalgia, not only for times passed in one’s life, but for music of past eras as well. The band takes cues from 20th century honky-tonk piano (The Suburbs), classic punk (Month of May), disco/new wave (Sprawl II, Half-Light II), Neil Young (Wasted Hours), and even Bruce Springsteen (City With No Children), while the excellent Modern Man evokes what Tom Petty might have sounded like had he come out in 2010. The amazing thing about this is it all still manages to sound like Arcade Fire.

There are more synthesizers present on this than any of their prior work, but they blend in seamlessly with the band’s large sound. The string flourishes are still there, but take more of an atmospheric role this time out. While one may not notice them as immediately as on past records, the songs would be lacking without them. The album has an incredible atmosphere to it that is just bubbling below the surface. Multiple listens reveal new nuances to the tracks every time. This is truly a record that one can hear for the fiftieth time, and still manage to pick out sounds they hadn’t heard up to that point. The bass lines, while not technically amazing, are an integral part of many of the songs, lending a certain amount of groove to the band that suits them quite nicely (Ready To Start). Win Butler and Regine Chassagne both provide excellent vocal performances. Butler’s voice sounds more refined than ever, (remember the guy who could barely sing on Funeral?) while still managing to possess a wide range of emotion from anger, to reflection. He sounds beaten down by the modern world on some songs, while downright triumphant on others. Chassagne's background vocals are an integral part of many of the cuts, and she has excellent lead turns on Empty Room and Sprawl II, two of the best songs on the record. The guitars are much more prominent here than on Neon Bible, and even more so than some tracks from Funeral. On Rococo, what starts off as an acoustic, chamber-pop number explodes into arguably the heaviest song the band has ever recorded, as feedback squeals in the background before giving way to a heavily distorted guitar solo. The aforementioned Month of May rages harder than many actual punk bands as Win Butler’s rhythm guitar absolutely screams over densely layered vocals. At this point, one may wonder if this is really the same group that released Neon Bible. However, the band pulls all these seemingly disparate styles off and manages to make them into a cohesive album. They avoid the third-album letdown by taking elements of their past work, blending them nicely, and managing to break new ground as well.

While this album does run long, it does so in the spirit of the concept album. The Wall was long and had many skits and vignettes, but the concept and the music was riveting enough to warrant multiple listens, and The Suburbs is no different, except with considerably less filler. The album manages to be very of this era, yet the relatable subject matter and the vast array of influences within the music manage to transcend the time in which it was released. Like The Wall’s and OK Computer’s before it, this is a classic that is destined to be rediscovered by generations to come.


user ratings (1961)
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....

    Chris Baranowski (4)
    Both timeless and contemporary, urgent and meditative, The Suburbs is an important step fo...

    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 
Hep Kat
February 23rd 2011



15335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i would highly recommend breaking up that one ginormous paragraph

Digging: Botany Boyz - Forever Botany

NigelH
February 23rd 2011



1571 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, I think I'm going to. It's a little bloated. Thanks. How do I edit a review?

NigelH
February 23rd 2011



1571 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nevermind, figured it out.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is really good. It shouldn't have won the grammy, but I think the grammy voters just wanted to be all "look how indie we are all of a sudden."

Monstrous review.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 23rd 2011



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is a really good review but can I just express how fanboy it makes you look when you call them

the Fire


Hep Kat
February 23rd 2011



15335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah this won a grammy for the same reason the mars volta won one

AnotherBrick
February 23rd 2011



9770 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Because its good?

letsgofishing
February 23rd 2011



901 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"It's a little bloated"

Yeah, just like the album.

cvlts
February 23rd 2011



8954 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Who da fuccck is da arcade faya??? never herd of dos cheatas.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2011



7325 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't like this as much as you and I think Funeral is definitely better, but I really agree with your last paragraph.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha Knott

iFghtffyrdmns
February 23rd 2011



7047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

pretty damn solid/ambitious review for your first go, good job. I agree with Hep though, I'd definitely find a way to break up that big paragraph.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 23rd 2011



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

And also JSYK I think her name is Chassagne, not Chassange. But I could be wrong, so someone correct me if that's the case.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh man I read that post and thought "JSYK" was someone's username. I was scrolling up and down the
page being all "who the fuck is he talking about"

just so you know

Knott-
Emeritus
February 23rd 2011



10195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I wasn't saying it's 'wrong' to call them that, but just making clear that the tone is one which slightly undermines his objectivity.

fr33convict
February 23rd 2011



11687 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, especially for a first. Just definitely make sure you break up that huge paragraph.

NigelH
February 23rd 2011



1571 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for the comments/constructive criticism. Believe it or not, that paragraph is broken up. It was even more of a beast before, but I still might try to pare it down a bit. Yeah, using "the Fire" does peg me as a fanboy, which is true, but I think I'll change that for objectivity's sake. Also, I did have Chassagne's named spelled wrong, thanks for the heads up Knott.

ihopeuchoke
February 23rd 2011



668 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Finally a review that gives this album the credit it deserves

Eko
February 23rd 2011



2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great first review, albums pretty awesome. glad it won the grammy.

Spec
February 23rd 2011



27130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Digging: Rinoa - An Age Among Them



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