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August 9, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Arcade Fire—The Suburbs

Arcade Fire—The Suburbs
Merge Records

Win Butler has always had a fervent preoccupation with ‘the kids’, be it the youthful escapism of debut Funeral, or anger and concern for the kids with no future on Neon Bible. Here, on their third full-length, it seems to be maturing—they’re no longer running with ‘the kids’, but they’re contemplating settling down and having their own. It’s a more tempered record than what has come before—their propensity towards arena anthems is dampened considerably, replaced with a focus on rhythm across many tracks.

‘The Suburbs’ opens the album, bouncing along as Butler sings “Grab your mother’s keys, we’re leaving”—still preoccupied with the kids, but not as joyously as before. ‘Ready To Start’ and ‘Empty Room’ couple their string section with an upped pace, to great effect. Butler’s vocal apex on the former, particularly, is a highlight. Unfortunately, the highlights are somewhat disparate across The Suburbs. At sixteen tracks, the album is overlong. By quite some distance. ‘Wasted Hours’, ‘Deep Blue’ and ‘We Used To Wait’ have no place here—their pacing is too similar, their melodies too ineffectual to warrant making the final cut on this album. ‘Month of May’ attempts what I guess you could label Arcade Fire’s version of ‘punk’, but Butler lacks the bite to pull off the viciousness that the song strives for, calling out all the “kids standing with their arms folded tight”. That’s not to fault the band though, they pull off a driving, heavy(ish) rhythm that I wouldn’t have expected of them. All in all, however, the album drags far too often, and when it drags, it draaaags. However, all is not lost, as the band redeem themselves wonderfully on the final two tracks. ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’ totally sparkles, with echoes of both Funeral’s ‘Haiti’ and Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ in a vibrant, upbeat number. Regine Chassagne takes centre stage and makes the most of it, completely eclipsing any vocal turn by Butler on the album. Then the album is bookended by a downbeat closing to the track ‘The Suburbs’, melancholic and pretty depressing, really. But these last two tracks easily make the biggest impression on the listener, and ‘Sprawl II’ is totally one of their career highlights. I just wish there wasn’t so much fucking filler to work through to get to it.


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  1. regine says:

    what the fuck, jamess.

    what happened to u bro

    u listened to us, still a tween, as an alt baby being cultivated in the metaphorical ‘womb of the scene’….
    we raised u…
    an authentic fan in a sea of mnstrmrs.

    the pinacle of our career; the suburbs.
    not sure if you’ve heard but we got an effing grammy for this shit. (equivalent to a 10.0 from p4k)

    u effing panned us bro
    u let us down

    miss u


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