Tag Archives: rococo

THE SUBURBS by arcade fire

by Gordon

 

Pitchfork: 8.6          Rolling Stone: 4/5          Metacritic: 86          Spin: 4.5/5

 

Released: August 2010
Tracklisting:
  1. The Suburbs
  2. Ready to Start
  3. Modern Man
  4. Rococo
  5. Empty Room
  6. City With No Children
  7. Half Light I
  8. Half Light II (No Celebration)
  9. Suburban War
  10. Month of May
  11. Wasted Hours
  12. Deep Blue
  13. We Used to Wait [LISTEN]

  14. Sprawl (Flatland)
  15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
  16. The Suburbs (Continued)

   A little premature to be giving a grade to a brand new album by one of the most significant bands to grace my generation? Absolutely. Have I figured out how influential these songs will be on me over the course of my life? Not at all. A little too hard to wait to put a good word in? Yup.

   It’s too easy to say and too hard not to say it: “They’ve done it again.” Meaning: They’ve made another Arcade Fire album. They’ve done so little wrong and so much right over their celebrated lifespan that putting it so simply really is all one needs to say, or know. While at least as different from its predecessors as Neon Bible was from Funeral, it still possesses that inescapable air that seems to bind all of their work into the nice, familiar musical gift it is.

   Though taking a stab at more than a handful of previously un-tinkered-with sounds and instruments, they’ve somehow managed to infuse it all with that same dark yet curiously happy mix of Arcade Fire energy, their themed frustrations this time directed, not surprisingly, at the cold, mediocrity-inspiring lifestyles and landscapes of your everyday everyman suburbs. Theirs…and ours.

   Setting the mood and point at the start with the album’s title track, “The Suburbs” begins with a rollicking piano romp whose playfulness, when one considers the lyrically grave implications confessed by Butler, come off as near sarcastic, especially when coupled with the haunting and more tonally honest string accompaniment. “You always seemed so sure/ That one day we’d be fighting/ In a suburban war/ Your part of town against mine/ I saw you standing on the opposite shore/ But by the time the first bombs fell/ We were already bored.”

   “Modern Man” takes a significant turn from the everyday Arcade Fire with a late-80s vibe that includes a steady electric guitar rhythm and some unique spacey distractions throughout, Butler lamenting, “So I wait in line, I’m a modern man/ And the people behind me, they can’t understand/ Makes me feel like something don’t feel right.” “Rococo” instantly took me to old feelings first felt by first impressions of the band…a relatively simple chord progression that’s initially driven by aggressively-strummed acoustic guitar and deep, reverberating bass and strings, until exploding into an instrumental melee of noise, emotion, and distortion, with just the right amount of each.

   “We Used to Wait” is a true gem, call me a sucker for your repetitive, choppy piano backbone. The chords, at once that perfect aforementioned mix of dark and happy, make the song, especially when aided with a catchy synth-bassline and eventually, a string crescendo reminiscent of the epic climax to Neon Bible’s “Windowsill.”

   And “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” at first listen was quick to become my favorite Régine Chassagne-sung track spanning the band’s career. Sounding vaguely at times like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, it’s also clearly the band’s danciest tune to date as well, Chassagne’s vocals matching just right in both pitch and attitude. Though it wouldn’t have had any agreeable place on their previous two records, it somehow feels right at home in The Suburbs, and a feel-good closer that makes it harder to think sore thoughts for this most recent endeavor. Like the album’s opener, the upbeat positivity screams a far cry from the truth that they sing: “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small/ That we can never get away from the sprawl/ Living in the sprawl/ Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains/ And there’s no end in sight/ I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights.”

   Boasting 16 tracks, I feared from the get go that they might have gone for quantity over quality on this one. Yeah, the album is perhaps without any truly timeless band classics like Funeral’s “Rebellion (Lies)” or Neon Bible’s “No Cars Go”. And yeah, it also boasts a few less-than-satisfying pieces, like “Month of May”, for example, which I’d swear was The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” everytime it starts (nothing against that classic). But they’ve provided us with a [normal] Arcade Fire album’s worth of enjoyment that should easily keep us going for the next few years until they’re ready to do it all over again. With The Suburbs, Arcade Fire has wrestled with and ultimately won the battle over mediocrity: by kicking its ass.

   Advert for their upcoming Madison Square Garden gig (webcast to be directed by Terry Gilliam):

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