Monday, August 2, 2010

Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"

Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs" Vinyl LP (2x LP Gatefold)
MRG 385
Original Release - 2o1o

"So can you understand why I want a daughter while I'm still young? I want to hold her hand, and show her some beauty before all this damage is done."

The lyrics of Arcade Fire's catalogue are nothing if not dramatic. The new album "The Suburbs" is full of the kind of imagery and emotion you have come to expect from Arcade Fire. What we have here is a perfect marriage of the anthemic nature of "Funeral" and the intimate, foreboding nature of "Neon Bible".

"The Suburbs" works on so many levels. It works as pure sonic pleasure, an instantly listenable album that rewards repeat listens. It works as a stepping stone in the Arcade Fire catalogue, the natural progression of sonic evolution from a band that seems to release each subsequent album under unbearable public expectations. And it also works as a meditation of life, what we all experience, or look forward to experiencing as we get older. The inevitable look over the shoulder at your former self, as you progress ever onward into adulthood and beyond.

"The Suburbs" and "Ready to Start" open the album with an uptempo pace, much like the anthems on "Funeral", its not until "Modern Man" that things settle down into a mid-tempo groove. Win Butler sings "Maybe when you're older you will understand why you don't feel right why you can't sleep at night now in line for a number but you don't understand like a modern man." Lyrics Reminiscent of another excellent 2o1o release from The National "High Violet". Like "High Violet", "The Suburbs" is about change, and how we deal with that change. With "Rococo", we hear Arcade Fire climax into a chorus that sounds like the best of Radiohead, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen put in a blender.

A ferocious arrangement of strings and guitars open "Empty Room" while Regine Chassagne sings of loneliness and self discovery. The musicianship is often brilliant early in the album, always exciting and different, if not always as experimental as we usually expect from Arcade Fire.

The exceptional "Half Light I" thrills the listener with pure escapism. The desperate cry for adventure and meaning reminiscent of classics like "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road" will grip you with a longing for an open highway at sunrise: "You told us that we were too young, now the nights closing in and in the half light we run". The song slowly builds with tension provided by Jeremy Gara, and slowly bleeds into "Half Light II (No Celebration)". Never has a desperate world and American economy been described with such beauty, moreover Win describes the eventual decline that sustains us as inhabitants of earth: "Pray to God I won't live to see the death of everything that's wild. Though we knew this day would come, still it took us by surprise. In this town where I was born, I now see through a dead man's eyes". What is it with the Canadians and their natural ability to commentate on our general lack of respect for nature? I'm thinking mainly of the wonderful Neko Case, the legendary Neil Young, and now the introspective Win Butler.

"Month of May" is a natural born rocker that opens Side 3 with a furious backbeat and some funky, experimental guitar work. Here we also have the now famous commentary on the Hipster movement. As someone who has preformed in front of crowds all over the world, I'll take Win's assessment of the situation as gospel. Unfold you're hands Hipsters, enjoy, this is life.

"Wasted Hours", "Deep Blue", and "We Used to Wait" all confront the listener with sounds and lyrics of escape and freedom juxtaposed against the feeling of, well, the suburbs. Towards the end of the album there are many "what does it all mean" moments, "why do I feel this way", and "am I alone in this". We all have these feelings, we all want to find that sense of home and belonging, and we all want to run. How do we deal with change? "When the lights cut out I was lost standing in the wilderness downtown. Now our lives are changing fast. Now our lives are changing fast. Hope that something pure can last." All of Side 3 builds with an immediacy that leads into the beautiful finale that is Side 4.

"Sprawl I" brings to mind the helplessness at the hand of The Man that was presented with such vivid imagery during "The Trial" of Pink Floyd's "The Wall". Helplessness and longing hangs over "Sprawl I" and gives way to the beautiful, driving, and epic "Sprawl II". What sounds like a reworking of "Heart of Glass" (only cooler) the driving beat and voice of Chassange give this listener the chills. An anthem to regain our humanity by, lets not simply accept what someone tells us, lets not just punch the clock: the dystopian police lights are blinding, she is calling for darkness, she is calling for freedom.

"So grab your mother's keys, we leave tonight"

Album - A

Vinyl - The vinyl is presented beautifully in a glossy gatefold (8 different choices). The vinyl is black and standard weight. The vinyl for the most part sounds excellent, but my side 4 has some issues and does not sound as clean as I would expect from new vinyl. B

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