Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Quick reaction to Arcade Fire's The Suburbs
Parts of The Suburbs sound to me (thematically, not sonically) like something David Byrne would have released in the late '80s, around the time of the True Stories project. Byrne is one of our gentlest eccentrics and would have probably gotten a spread in Rolling Stone for his trouble, but since Arcade Fire's first two records were full of Grand Statements about life, politics, and religion they can expect a little more scrutiny. The Suburbs is the first Arcade Fire album where every song doesn't sound like an attempted anthem, and the shambling opener of a title track sets the tone. My blogfriend singled out a line in "The Suburbs" as an example of the album's lyrical obviousness, but I'm not quite there. Leaving aside the question of whether it's helpful to consider individual lines of songs at all, I'd say there's a tension at work here between past and present. Or to state it more bluntly, between the safe, remembered blandness of childhood and one's hopes and fears for one's children and the next generation. ("The Suburbs", "Rococo", "City With No Children", "We Used To Wait")
My lifetime has seen the pleasure and anticipation of waiting for a letter become almost entirely obsolete. You can throw all the irony you want at that fact, but it's true. Win Butler gets lyrical mileage out of what that means about modern life in "We Used To Wait", which might be the closest thing The Suburbs has to a memorable melody. As much I liked the album, that's a problem. What The Suburbs strips away in bombast in adds back in length. As much as "Sprawl II" serves as a triumphant release (and lost '80s closing credits tune), I could have done without the dirge-like "Sprawl I" or "Ready To Start" (which contains a couple of real lyrical howlers). It's good to see Arcade Fire working in a more specific, personal vein. The Suburbs (or most of it) could be their first album that I come back to.