on 3 August 2010
In 2007 Arcade Fire released `Neon Bible', the critically acclaimed follow-up to their 2004 debut, `Funeral', which, contrary to the opinion of pretty much everyone else, I believe to be a far superior album. Although `Neon Bible' had its moments, Intervention and My Body is a Cage being two of the band's finest achievements, it clearly lacked the cohesive charm evident in its predecessor. In what appeared to be an attempt at sonic expansion and multi-layered musical density in its production, `Neon Bible' had a muddy, and at times, impenetrable sound, which often hindered its track rather than enhance them. Take Black Mirror for example. A song which, when played live, reveals itself as a genuine classic to rival any single from `Funeral', yet on record, feels sludgy and laborious. With this direction receiving praise from critics and fans alike, I was fully expecting Arcade Fire to continue in a very similar path.
The potential for disappointment with the band's third release, `The Suburbs', was further compounded when it was revealed that the record would boast sixteen new tracks, a number which surely suggests a significant amount of filler to be contained within. However, to underestimate a band of this calibre is very evidently a mistake, as `The Suburbs' sees Arcade Fire not only make a clear return to form, but create their best and most accomplished album to date.
The over the top production values have been ditched in favour of a beautifully light and airy atmosphere, allowing each track to breathe and express itself in such a way that would never have been possible with `Neon Bible'. Opening track The Suburbs demonstrates this perfectly and acts as a direct contrast to Black Mirror, `Neon Bible's' opener. With understated piano and acoustic guitars providing a light and sparse mood, The Suburbs acts as a perfect precursor for what is to come over the next 65 minutes. This minimalist approach is once again evident in Modern Man, Rococo, and Deep Blue, displaying a newfound maturity and sense of discipline in their instrumentation.
'The Suburbs' also sees the band tread new ground in the form of Month of May, a pulsating and intense track that possesses an intensity and urgency previously unheard in their earlier work. Lead single We Used to Wait and Ready to Start each provide moments of similar intensity when compared to much of the album's lighter moments, both held together by a rigid pulse and tight structure.
Their progression into new territories continues with Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains), arguably the most ambitious move the band have made to date. With a synth laden chorus, Sprawl 2 points the band in an electronic direction unheard in their previous offerings, providing a shimmering backdrop to a spectacularly infectious lead vocal performance from Regine. The way in which the song gently builds and applies its layers without once threatening to impose upon the melodic nature of the central vocal performance is quite simply an achievement in itself.
Not only have Arcade Fire made a welcome return to form with the best album of their career so far, I firmly believe `The Suburbs' to be a true modern masterpiece. They have managed to create an album of such epic scale and grandeur whilst maintaining an atmosphere of understated beauty and simplicity. For me, `The Suburbs' deserves to be firmly placed among the great album releases of the past decade, and certainly the best album of 2010 to date (new Interpol album pending). Furthermore, the sonic qualities displayed here hint at the potential for even greater things in the years to come. Having opened their sound up in such interesting and inventive ways, they really could go anywhere with album number four.
on 14 November 2010
'The Suburbs' is the first album I have listened to from indie outfit 'Arcade Fire' originating from Montreal, Canada and it certainly won't be the last. It took a few listens but it is an inspiring album, containing lyrics which are deep, passionate and captivating. The song meanings can be interpreted in a number of ways, on either a personal or political level. Standout tracks? To select only a couple of songs would not do this album the justice it fully deserves.
The album kicks off with 'The Suburbs' and possibly relates to time moving on, perhaps in relation to the growth and path of life, a serious relationship which has moved up a level, a man's desire to have children before it's too late...yet the song could also reflect the growth and development of the band since in 2001.
'Ready to Start' is a strong and powerful track, and the lyrics could portray a break-up being overcome after going through the motions, and how he feels he does not need that person anymore and has the strength to be alone and start again.
'We Used to Wait' is hauntingly beautiful, you can feel the passion and desperation in the vocals.
This album goes from strength to strength and you will soon be reaching for the 'repeat' button.
If you love indie rock music and are interested in songs with meaningful lyrics with depth and intensity then buy this well-crafted album. Arcade Fire is definitely a band worth investigating, especially if you have not already done so.
on 31 August 2011
This is something that all real Arcade Fire Fans need (Even if they have already bought the original album).
The Suburbs was already a 5/5 album but with the 2 added songs it is even better! I think the new version of 'Wasted Hours' is great and I really love the two new songs especially 'Culture War' which I was in love with from the moment I first heard it in HMV a few days before this album's release. The other downloadable bonus songs are pretty good too and I think I actually prefer the remix to 'Ready to Start' to the original.
Although I can see how people didn't really understand the short film as I was a bit confused after the first time I watched it. The second time I watched it I turned the subtitles on (In some scenes it is hard to hear what is being excactly said) and I got a much better understanding of the film (The film is just a collection of memories from the main character's teenage days in the suburbs). So after re-watching the film I now think it is a brilliant!(Maybe those who didn't really get it or enjoy it the first time should give it another watch).
The album is nicely packaged and the booklet with pictures taken during the filming of the film is great too!
Overall this is something all Arcade Fire Fans should buy!
on 15 September 2013
A must have in any collection. All tunes are well written. I just hope they haven't peaked. Will be a hard album to beat
on 3 November 2010
It is an incredibly difficult achievement to write 3 albums, each with a distinct feel to it, while retaining a band's integral sound. Yet that is exactly what Arcade Fire have done with The Suburbs. You could pick any track and know that it doesn't fit into either Funeral or Neon Bible, yet it is very clearly an Arcade Fire song. Within the album itself, there is a wide range of styles, yet that does detract from its cohesiveness. The outstanding track both musically and lyrically has to be Month of May, though this does not take anything away from the other songs. So far, it is my favourite album of 2010.
on 2 July 2014
I confess to struggling to build a more contemporary vinyl record collection and having listened to them perform at Glastonbury bought this album "blind" immediately afterwards. This album is immensely satisfying - not one track that I didn't like and with an immense variety of styles - from folksy melodies to harder edged rock. The soundstage on the vinyl recording is superb.
on 10 May 2012
Amazing band, amazing album! Arcade Fire are a great band both live and on record! An album
not to be missed!
on 26 July 2010
Back in 2004 The Arcade Fire single handedly reinvigourated the stale Canadian music scene with their debut album 'Funeral'. That release opened the flood gates for countless other canadian acts to ride on their coat tails towards that hallowed place called 'Mainstream Success Coupled With Critical Acclaim'. There are way too many artists to begin listing them or singling out the best (oh go on then, I'll give a mention to The Dears 2005 release 'No Cities Left') but needless to say some have continued to garner critical success, whilst others have fallen by the wayside. This canadian hyperbole went someway to hamper the release of The Arcade Fire's (otherwise excellent) second release, 2007's 'Neon Bible'. The huge expectation coupled with an over-crowded market place led some critics & fans dissmissing the album as underwhelming and bloated. So it is with great relief that in 2010 The Arcade Fire are able to finally release an album which will go largely unnoticed by the general public and the radio playlists.
The Arcade Fire's music has often been compared to that of 80's/90's/00's (!) legends The Cure. Well, if 'Neon Bible' was The Arcade Fire's 'Disingtigration' (all anxiety and a tad on the histrionic side) then 'The Suburbs' feels somewhat like their very own 'The Head On The Door' (albeit with folk inteludes). The album starts with the triple shot of 'The Suburbs', 'Ready To Start' and 'Modern Man', this is as good a start as your likely to hear all year. The title track sounds like a jaunty, folk ballad replent with great 'piani', bubbling basslines, acoustic strumming and (yes) orchestral overtures (they just can't help themselves can they?), all the while Win Butler sings of a wanting to reach a state of ecstacy through the medium of family. This is a theme which continues throughout the release. Butler's lyrics continue down the road of obtuse & unreleated. He sings of cities, family, the financial crisis, age anxieties and various other troubles, yet he never manages to convey his actual feelings towards any given subject, instead choosing to sloganize everything into bite-size portions('If the business man drink my blood/ Like the kids in art school said they would). But, to be fair, he does manage to recruit you to his cause at every turn, so he must have something.
'Ready To Start' is Arcade Fire by numbers, but it is still so effective. The moment that the song swells & blossoms into it's finale is truly breath taking. 'Modern Man' is one of the albums true highlights. It holds a similarity to 'In Between Days' (there goes those Cure references again). Its nice to hear the band let loose a little and just play a simple, straight song with no over dubs or operatic inteludes, and (whisper it), it could just be a chart hit. Throughout the album the band seem to resemble any number of 80's music legends, 'Empty Room' (could easily have sat on any My Bloody Valentine record), 'Half Light' (surely the band have listened to a few New Order records in their time ?), whilst countless others seem to inhabit the ghost of Mike Scott's Waterboys. But at no point does it feel like the band are needlessly rehashing ideas, this is just the sound of a band taking stock of their influences and incorpating them into something fresh. And lets face it, countless other bands (yeah, Chris Martin, I'm looking your way) will be taking crib notes from this very record.
Any record which features 16 songs is always liable to accusations of overload, and this album certainly could have lost a couple of tracks ('Wasted Hours' would have made a decent B-side, but is an average album track), but the highlights are so numerous that it is easy to over look the occassional dud. The afore-mentioned 'Empty Room' is superb, sounding a little like an out-take from M83's last album (the wonderful 'Saturdays = Youth'), it is over-flowing with emotion and Butler & Régine Chassagne's strained vocals at it's climax truly get the heart pounding. 'Suburban War' is the sound of a mature band, no longer rushing for the payload and letting the song grow naturally. It starts with a plaintive guitar lick but steadily grows towards its thunderous end. The percussion reminded me a little of California's The Dodo's (check out their album 'VISITER', if you already have'nt). And the double-barrelled shot of 'The Sprawl' & 'The Sprawl 2' offer a fantastic note on which to end the album. Part 1 is very reminiscent of Scott Walker with it's beautiful, stately orchestral overtures, whilst part 2 goes all New Order on us. It is superb.
Overall the record feels like a continuation of what came before. This is not a 'Kid A' style overhaul of the bands original concept (although 'Month Of May' does do a good job of introducing punk to the Arcade Fire's musical cannon) and neither is it a 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' celebration of the band's sound. No, this is just another great Arcade Fire album which won't dissapoint any existing fans of the group or likely scare away any new comers. The experimentation can wait, this is how I want The Arcade Fire to sound in 2010 and although the initial teenage-like thrill of discovering the group can never be repeated, I'm enjoying seeing the group enter a middle age reliability.
The Arcade Fire's first album 2004's debut "Funeral" was by the yawning length of the Trans-Canada Highway the greatest album of the past decade. It was an musical statement that grabbed you by the throat, turned your head fully to left and the right and made you look in vain for anything quite as good in surrounding musical forest. Its successor "Neon Bible" had its moments of brilliance and in "No Cars Go" and "Keep the car running" possibly two of the greatest songs by the band, but was also greeted with some talk of an emerging sophomore slump. The terrible accursed law of averages suggests that at some time this band will fully slip and that the weight of the heavy hype leading up to the release of their third album "Suburbs" could bring the critical edifice crashing down around them. So let us take some soundings. A "Masterpiece" declares Q magazine; "its unbelievable" says Consequences of Sound. So far so good then, but hold on what are these discordant notes? "If Arcade Fire's goal is to evoke the tedium of the suburbs, they have most definitely succeeded" says a sour review in Eye weekly while large parts of it "falters in its bloated weight" declares Sputnikmusic.
The fact is that tracks from this album have been flying around the internet for months and I have to say that sadly on first listen EyeWeekly seemed to have got it right. The first track "Suburbs" appears to start off like a poor Badly Drawn Boy track, "We used to wait" sounded like pure AF by numbers while none of the other tracks seemed to have those epic proportions of the "Neighbourhood" cycle on Funeral. Even more concerning on "Rococo" the fourth song on this album Butler himself seems to anticipate a back lash where he ruefully questions why "They build it up just to burn it back down/The wind is blowing the ashes all around/Oh my dear God what is that horrible song?" Thankfully all is not lost, indeed the outlook is very bright. It was the poet W H Auden who once said there is only one cardinal sin and that is impatience. Amazon readers will know that some of the greatest albums you own have sometimes been set aside for months or been the equivalent of a musical triathlon. Its hard work yet once you finish the race the rewards are even sweeter. Unlike "Funeral" this third album is not chock full of theatrical pounding anthems, but this long album is a great rocking album, it is a catchy pop album, it's a bold album and a superb album.
The Montréal band led by Win Butler have taken a loose concept and applied it to those urban sprawls, the bedroom communities, the zoning, the alienation and the loneliness. Drawing on his own experience this album has four clear parts which are inhabited by generally shorter songs than on the previous albums. Four stand out immediately as some of the best rock songs you will hear this year. "Empty Room" sung by Régine Chassagne is a complete knock out punch with a bloody big glove and stands as a worthy successor to "No Cars Go". My own favourite is more restrained and almost Springsteen like "City with no Children", a glorious pop song. While "Month of May" is so raging and frenetic it sounds like the Stooges. Lastly the brilliant "Suburban war" is underpinned by a gorgeous melody and a Smiths like guitar coda.
These songs grab your attention but then its time to dive deeper. I've yet to warm to "Half Light 1" but the scintillating "Half Light 2" reminds you of the glorious days of Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder with its Studio 54 pounding disco beat overlain with a great Butler vocal. "Ready to start" is dominated by the vocal refrain "If I was yours I would, and if I was pure you know I would, and if I was yours, but Im not" and grows and grows on each listen. "Wasted Hours" has an almost alternative country feel to it and could grace a Wilco album. Finally the double pairing of "Sprawl" (Flatland) finds Butler baring his raw emotions about his old suburb of Woodlands near Houston while its partner "Sprawl 11 (Mountains beyond Mountains") is one of the best songs on the album with a clear passing nod to MGMTs magnum opus "Time to Pretend".
"Suburbs" is proof that Arcade Fire are developing and maturing at an astounding rate. It is an intriguing album of moods, melancholy and in equal parts mayhem and madness. This is evidence of band who are not prepared to rest on their laurels, who know that barely any other band can touch them. Yet when you are this good the comfort of superiority is not good enough and once again the Arcade Fire have thrown down the musical gauntlet to all their contemporaries.
on 15 November 2013
This album is amazing, a grower I learned to love.
I am one of those who played a hundred times the first album Funeral and that is always disappointed when first listening a new Arcade Fire, like expecting the same perfection.
But, giving it time, I learned to like very much Neon Bible and learned to love The Suburbs just as well.
This is definitly a stronger album than Neon Bible in my opinion!
Now I bought it on vinyl and it is important to say that it has been mixed for vinyl, because many band use the same mix for Cd and vinyl version and that, you can hear!
It feels like a analog flawless experience! It feels like you get what you pay for when you strech the bucks to have the vinyl version!