Second Impressions Of The Arcade Fire’s ‘Suburbs’
So, I’ve been listening to The Suburbs a lot. I knew that it would grow on me the way Neon Bible did and it has. I still don’t think it’s quite as good as their last two albums: it’s a little too long, never quite as epic, and “Month Of May” is kind of a waster. But we’ve been over all that.
Still, I’m starting to ‘get’ The Suburbs. You see, it’s an album that has to be taken on its own terms. It’s long, but I think it’s meant to be listened to on vinyl, not straight through on your iPod or whatever. This isn’t the straight rush of the first two albums – this is an album more relaxed, with subtler things on its mind, as opposed to the glorious bombastic beauty – lyrical and musical – of Funeral and Neon Bible.
Those two albums were mad cries in the darkness of the modern world, calling for us all to wake up, to rebel against lies, and to keep the car running (metaphorically speaking, I doubt the Arcade Fire support idling). The Suburbs is more like a diary entry written in your bedroom, with the band lamenting the end of letter writing in “We Used To Wait”, the distance between people living in the “Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, how we can only be ourselves when we’re alone in an “Empty Room”, and how kids chooser collective illusion over reality for fear of alienation in “Ready to Start”.
Once you start listening to the lyrics, the concept of the album becomes illuminated and things start to come together. This is integral to understanding and fully enjoying The Suburbs, the Arcade Fire’s most conceptual album, something made clear by an ending reprise of the opening title track, and song titles that show that two subsequent songs are simply exploring different sides of one idea or issue, e.g. “Half Light I”, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” and “Sprawl (Flatlands)”, “Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.
The Suburbs works, but you have to kind of reconcile yourself to the fact that its a very different album from those that came before it. Once you can, you’ll enjoy it for what it is and you’ll remember why the Arcade Fire are one of the best bands of our generation.
Tags: arcade fire