(Merge) The third album from Arcade Fire is sure to please fans and nominating panels alike. Once again, Markus Dravs, who produced Neon Bible, is called in to bring finish to the sounds.
The concept of the album runs, as we’ve witnessed before, with a series of related titles — some numbered, some not. It’s a vehicle that works — driving the check-points until a full account of things is understood. There’s a literary sensibility to the work which will please the smarter listener. There’s something about this collection of songs that feels like it should be carried around like a book to be shared in rooms where agreeable people gather. As is now usual from Arcade Fire, there are waves of alternating pleasure and disenchantment.
Perhaps noisier that their first two albums, The Suburbs has a blunted-edge feel of post-punk influence. More distortion, less the feeling of chasing, more the tone of being chased. Lyrically, in more than one track, the band seems to be looking over their shoulder. In “We Used To Wait,” a distressed tone of “I used to sleep at night” is delivered, whilst in “Month Of May,” the retrospect continues with “I used to doubt, but now I believe…” There is more than a mere reflection in the lyrical content, but it is most definitely there, suggesting a maturing of composition that puts the impetuous down. A reassuring counterpoint is the nature of the music, which isn’t as friendly and not always as easy as fans of Funeral may expect.
Tracks like “Ready To Start” and “City With No Children” provide fans with the vintage Arcade Fire sound — the visceral, euphoria of singing at the top of a voice amongst trusted friends.
The Suburbs perhaps relates more to the Canadian or European city-planners style than the U.S. sensibility because these are songs that seem to run or walk through the streets. Cars come and go, but this is an album on a human scale, describing not only places of interest but the distances felt between them. Transport can often get in the way of experiencing real distance and direction. It doesn’t feel like any short cuts can be made here. There is an authenticity of scale that has most definitely been walked and inspected. Whilst the closed-in feel of some lyrics does spike out with the desire to escape the pedestrian life, the homely feel of belonging remains.
From the moment the world heard the band’s first album, Arcade Fire have been treated with almost unbridled affection. Older members of the Rock establishment, alongside younger contemporaries, formed lines to sing praise or share the stage. The Suburbs can only serve to add gravitas to an already substantial act. There is no forced change of direction, and there is no resting on the safe-bet. What happens with these songs is a certain progress, a strong developing sense that has Arcade Fire showing how to be a band, how to turn in quality, and how to treat the listener without being ‘Stars’. When people puzzle over the band’s media shyness and ‘hype-avoidance,’ they could perhaps check-out Ready To Start and the sad, graceful voice that states he would “…Rather be alone than pretend to be all right.” The level of mutual respect is assured.
For Fans Of: Fanfarlo, Beirut, Phoenix, The Pixies
Standout Tracks: “The Suburbs,” “We Used To Wait,” “Month Of May,” “City With No Children”