Album Review: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Merge Records: 2010

Through all of the hardship expressed via their music, the members of Arcade Fire carry on unscathed. Apart from the occasional dim criticism of over-ambition, this Montreal band has garnered respect on all fronts. They started with tour de force Funeral in 2004, continued with grandiose Neon Bible in 2007, and now with The Suburbs, they have successfully combined the best attributes from their past two records towards this powerfully poignant album.

Even with a straightforward concept, Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company pack so much content to explore on The Suburbs.  To fit with the record, it’s the juxtaposition between those “Wasted Hours” in “The Suburbs” and the “Modern Man” mentality you cannot escape once the freedom of youth is out the window. Gone are the days of writing letters and waiting for them to arrive, expressed on both “City With No Children” and “We Used To Wait”. Present are the days of instant inconsequential electronic messages through flashing lights. Gone are the days of waiting around all Summer staring out the window. Present are the days of waiting in line for a number. It turns out, even as a child sitting on the school bus longing to get loose from the shackles that were holding you back, those were the innocent days where freedom flourished. Win Butler, pensive as ever on last track “The Suburbs (continued)”, looking back as far as he can, would have those times back in a heartbeat.

Régine Chassagne has been the unsung hero of this band since their debut, giving balance when backing up Win’s vocals, and rising to the occasion by herself many times. Her finest work is without a doubt present on The Suburbs. Chorus work on “City With No Children”, echoing Butler on “Half Light II (No Celebration)” and running off with the emotional “Half Light I”, she fires on all cylinders. I cannot forget to mention “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, the epitome of pop music, which makes for the best track on the album.

Power ballads “Month of May”, “Ready to Start” and “Empty Room” will rock an arena near you. Intimate tracks like “Sprawl (Flatland)”, “Suburban War”, “Deep Blue” carry out the quiet desperation that makes the concept click. The Suburbs respires, from loud to soft, argumentatively back-and-forth to enhance the juxtaposition.

Easily their most cohesive, most accessible album to date, Arcade Fire have hit the trifecta with The Suburbs and, based off of the messages they deliver and how they portray them, they are not finished their escalation.

★★★★½
4.5 out of 5

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

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  1. So given time to listen to it more, do you still think Mountains Upon Mountains is the stand-out track?

  2. I think there’s a dazzling album and a capable EP buried in the tracklist of The Suburbs. About 3 or 4 of these songs slimmer, this thing would’ve been a modern classic.

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