Published on August 2nd, 2010 | by greg0
Arcade Fire : The Suburbs :: Review
Arcade Fire is the Lifetime Channel of alt-rock bands who are seemingly content on placing their histrionic rants on assorted Generation X topics conveniently in one disposable package. Their third album, the regret and nostalgia fueled, “The Suburbs” joins the highly influential debut, “Funeral” and meandering Bruce Springsteenesque political debacle, “Neon Bible” as a return to themes that John Hughes mined for most of his career in the Eighties. Having seen this theme played out for the past twenty years in every sort of iteration causes this reviewer to forcibly ask the question as whether Arcade Fire deliver an accomplished take on this theme or do they flail about caught up in ham-fisted story telling?
The jaunty title track, “The Suburbs” offers a cinematic start with its piano and shuffling percussion. Keeping with the Lifetime Channel theme, you can almost imagine a scowling character returning to his old childhood neighborhood and melting as he absorbs the evident decay that has occurred. That’s not cliché ridden is it? Moving on, “Ready To Start” is a rockier reflection on growing up as reflected by a bitter middle aged man. And so it goes, “Modern Man” contains more angst than a Roy Orbison inspired pastiche should be allowed. “Rococo” is a sweetly annoying track, an overdose on strings both synthetic and real. Forget what you read about it being similar to Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” consider that the espousing of a hipster too caught up in their own trends rather than trying to understand the world around them.
“Empty Room” picks up the pace that dropped with “Rococo,” with a Regine Chassagne led duet. “Empty Room” rides on a swell of bowed guitars to its benefit as the tweeness that Arcade Fire occasionally gets stuck on was starting to overwhelm. The ghost of Bruce Springsteen lingers on the lighter waving anthem, “City With No Children” and stays until the U2 inspired explosion of “Half Light II (No Celebration). As side one slips into the ether, it does not go quietly.
Side two opens with The Byrds-like guitar motifs of “Suburban War,” another solemn take on friendships past and present. Side two of “The Suburbs” seems to be the place where Arcade Fire played spot the reference as “Month of May” features guitar riffing that the Ramones mastered and “Deep Blue” could have been attempted by Neil Young on one of his Nineties albums. The synth heavy “We Used to Wait” finds the narrator reconciling with his past, which I typically wouldn’t call out, as formulaic but in the scope of concept albums, appears more than I would like to note. “Sprawl 1 and Sprawl II” begin earnestly enough before delving into a disco anthem on “Sprawl II.” “The Suburbs” ends with a whimper of regret with a somber reprise, which suits the album more so than the disco that preceded it.
While “The Suburbs” is a consistent listen, it does feature some spots that are over the top and heavy handed. Consider that par for the course as the dubbed nickname of Lifetime Channel band wouldn’t suit just anybody.