After the brilliance of their debut Funeral, Arcade Fire seemed to be in danger of never being able to match it. It was so good, the second album was almost inevitably going to fall short. Neon Bible was never less than good, and had its great moments (No Cars Go, Intervention, Windowsill) but seemed to be hinting at heading in a U2 style direction of preachy bombast, and suggested they might ultimately become just another 'big' stadium band. Which makes the varied and expanded musical palate of The Suburbs all the more welcome. It is an outstanding piece of work which shows just what a great band this is.
Unlike either of the first 2 albums, this one got me on first listen, and has been getting better and better ever since. A month on repeat on my car cd player has not detracted from its sustained excellence. 16 tracks could be insufferable from a less interesting band(and could be regarded as commercial suicide in the age of the ipod shuffle), but here it ensures there is so much to discover that it takes weeks to get at all tired of it. I don't think I have ever heard an album of this length without a single bad track (Rococo is the only one I sometimes skip) and where you don't want to pick out favourites, but play the whole thing.
Of course it helps that there is a continuity of theme and lyrics throughout the album, as was the case with Funeral, but here more so, with repeated lines and themes turning up in different songs connecting the whole thing and giving the album a circularity and feeling that this is a piece of work in several parts, not just a collection of songs. But there is also a variety of styles here that the band has not previously explored, from the punky Month of May to the electro pop of Sprawl 2. Overall it is more restarined and low key without so much of the massive crescendos we are used to hearing from them, but with more subtlety and layers to discover. Some of my personal favourites include the 2 Half Light tracks, which are both beautifully atmospheric and evocative, and sound like nothing they have done before; Suburban War which slowly builds momentum and emotion, and contains the great lines 'now the cities we live in could be distant stars/ and I search for you in every passing car'; and City With No Children with its irresistable repeated riff.
Lyrically and vocally its easily Win Butler's best effort, gone are the occasinally clunky rhymes and in its place is maturity of voice and songcraft. Regine, who was a little in the background on Neon Bible also sounds great on lead vocals on Empty Rooms and Sprawl 2, and the two of them duet to great effect on Half Light 1.
The Suburbs sounds more like a sequel to Funeral than NB did, both musically and with its themes of neighbourhood and growing up, but it also shows Arcade Fire have moved on from Funeral, expanded their range, and matured with new subtleties and nuances, whilst living up to the promise of their debut. A briliantly crafted record from a band in a league of their own.
on 4 September 2010
Buying a new album from a favourite band is always a stressful process.
I purchased the album blind (or is it deaf) on the day of release and was initially disappointed as the new offering was neither a Funeral II or an appendix to the Neon Bible. Thankfully, as is often the case, a difficult initial listen normally signals future potential and the album is now a fixture of the playlist on my phone, laptop and car.
Like the other reviewers, I can hear influences from Blondie to Springsteen in addition to the common Arcade Fire "wall of sound" elements. Current favourites are the "Suburban War" and "Rococo". My only criticism would be that I would have liked to hear more vocals from Regine, who's style does some resemblance to Bjork on occasion.
The nature of Arcade Fire's music does not (in my opinion) suit 30 second previews, if you are a new to the band try to listen to a few tracks in full before deciding.
on 28 June 2011
Ignore the First review! he posted the review long before its release without any information on the final product.
YOUR GETTING A REALLY GOOD DEAL HERE!
This is definite buy for any arcade fire or any new fan whos heard any of suburbs singles so far.
Its Great Package. Firstly you get Original 16 tracks of "The Suburbs". All excellent. On top of that you get 2 new Mixes of existing tracks and 2 New Songs + A rare Demo of Sprawl 1. Culture War and Speaking Tongues are both great songs, and speaking in tongues features David Byrne of talking heads. Wasted Hours has been redone. you then get a code which allows you to download 2 more songs for free. so overall you get 20 songs on this album.
You then get a DVD of "scenes from the suburbs" by Spike Jones, Its a hipster Movie, buts its a nice fan service to arcade fire fans and accompanies the album well. then also get a making of video on how arcade fire made the album. The video for the suburbs is actually act as trailer for the Movie.
Finally you get 60 page book which includes some fine photography that looks in to the Movie and includes the images of band etc alongside a full lyrics of whole album. Was this needed? probably not but its nice feature that they added.
overall if your new to arcade fire, purchasing this album is better then purchasing the standard version. If you've already bought the excellent original your getting a lot of fan service from this album, this is more then 2 bonus tracks, its one of best deluxe versions I've seen.
on 4 December 2010
I cannot praise Arcade Fire highly enough. I have been listening to music since the 60s and have a huge record collection but this album is the jewel in the crown. The band's song writing ability and musicianship is astonishingly competent. Somehow the music echoes familiar styles and as a result is very accessible yet the final product is totally unique. There is nothing else out there like it, these guys can pack more ideas in to a single song than most bands manage in a lifetime of recording. One minute you have the jagged cut of a punk guitar and then you're listening to a soaring multilayered chorus all being driven forward by a relentless toe tapping rhythm. The lyrics are very personal and meaningful yet despite their sometimes sombre outlook the tunes are incredibly uplifting with the best anthemic choruses you are ever likely to hear and I haven't even started talking about the amazing array of instruments and the musical arrangements.
The album is a bone fide epic; it may be the only piece of music you ever need to listen to, certainly my choice for the album that has to somehow survive the total destruction of the planet. Sorry I've run out of superlatives, you owe to yourselves not to let this one pass you by.
Ignore it at you peril!!
on 1 June 2014
I hated this band before, and haven't given them much thought since, but this is still a pretty good album. Ok, I maybe old, demented, up to my neck in cement, purple in a certain light, a cretin, hiding behind your curtains whistling birdsong right now after the fashion of black people in Kurt Vonnegut's wonderful 'Breakfast of Champions', biding my time, riding a unicycle, unclear, clapping, in need of a slap, slurring my words, worrying sheep, showing a goat at the county fair, fastening my belt, belly up on a sand bank somewhere in Germany, juicy, just taking a moment, mad, daft, directly related to Duke Ellington, an elephant, fecund, defunct: defunct, funereal, really fun, unhelpful, but I think my opinion still counts for something, don't you?
on 26 April 2011
Arcade Fire are one of those rare bands capable of such consistent and effortless feats of greatness, it almost becomes too easy to take for granted.
They returned seeming to have matured, aged and developed by vastly more than the five years since the release of Funeral. The quirks and youthful rallying cries of that era-defining debut are long gone. In their place, the subtler, more restrained sound of a band nostalgic for a bygone age, and seemingly on the brink of a cultural apocalypse.
It's a concept album in the very best sense, packed with deft touches of attention-to-detail and a narrative punctuated with musical motifs. Even the artwork was a visual metaphor - eight different varieties, yet all essentially the same, just like the vast and interchangeable 'endless suburbs, stretched out thin and dead' that were once home.
Of course, the journey that begins with 'grab your mother's keys, we're leaving' packs in more than just barren, bland landscapes and 'the modern kids' who live there now. The disillusionment runs parallel with a sense of urgency at wanting to live before its too late: '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 the damage is done.'
Musically there's a light and shade that makes this 16 track opus seem almost short, while avoiding the overbearing earnestness which previous album Neon Bible arguably fell into. So Sprawl I, an almost funereal lament to lost youth in which Win Butler sings of 'the loneliest day of my life', is followed by the Régine Chassagne sung Sprawl II, which - in a quite unexpected move - sounds like Blondie doing disco. Well, specifically, Heart of Glass.
An album about the inertia that exists in that gap between growing up and growing old ultimately left you feeling glad to be alive now to appreciate a once-in-a-generation brilliant band at the peak of their powers.
It's befitting of their complexity that, in making a record about the transitory nature of yesterday's values, fading childhood memories and dissolving landscapes, Arcade Fire produced a work destined for lasting greatness.
Don't expect another "Funeral" or "Neon Bible". The old songs, full of all of their wonderful bombast, now seem long ago, replaced by a darker, more considered sound. You won't find a "No Cars Go", a "Power Out", or a "Rebellion (Lies)" here, but what you will find is a simply stunning hour-long sprawl of music.
Some people have commented that this album is overlong but I disagree. As much as I liked "Funeral" and loved "Neon Bible" both had a few tracks I tended to skip (the likes of "Haiti" and a few others on the former, the title track on the latter) but after several listens of this new album I've yet to feel the urge to reach for the remote control, apart from to increase the volume. The 16 tracks are mostly quite short, the longest being just over five minutes, and the whole album is 64 minutes long. For me the length is perfect, especially as all the tracks are so strong.
What of the songs? "The Suburbs" is in some ways a concept album, some of the tracks running into others, themes being repeated, and an opening track reprised at the end in a much shortened form. The album takes a little time to work its magic but by the end of my first listen I really wanted to hear it again, immediately. No tracks could be described as being "traditional" Arcade Fire songs, where the whole band are going hell for leather on their instruments, the only ones coming close being "Month Of May", "Ready To Start" and "Empty Room". The remaining tracks are much more thoughtful, the overwhelming mood being one of reflection rather than the usual chaotic, joyous din. There are also a few more electronic tracks, particularly the euphoric "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and "Half Light II (No Celebration)". Each time I've listened to the album I've always had the urge to hit the play button again, and usually succumb to this.
This is one of the most cohesive albums I've ever heard, sounding almost like a musical or a soundtrack rather than a collection of songs. Without doubt the best album I've heard all year, and definitely Arcade Fire's best so far. Unreservedly recommended.
on 28 June 2014
Some albums sound very good the first time that you hear them, while others grow on you after several listens. Very few albums do both, and this is one of them.
I have been buying albums and listening to music of all kinds for about 45 years and this album is among the best (within its genre) that I have ever heard. I don't normally write reviews, but I felt that I had to give praise where it is due in this case.
on 22 September 2014
I bought this after hearing it at work. It's good pulsating music with a driving beat, good heavy chords and passable lyrics. It's great as background music and I enjoy working out to it. A good addition to my collection.
on 25 July 2014
The vinyl packaging for this album is absolutely beautiful and the sound quality doesn't disappoint either. The vinyl release does however feature a slightly different tracklisting to the CD and digital release and if I'm quite honest, I prefer the CD/Digital tracklisting but it's really a very minor complaint. The inner sleeves are beautifully featuring what appear to be handwritten lyrics and credits and the full colour artwork on the double gatefold sleeve is truly wonderful. Probably Arcade Fire's greatest work (although Reflektor wasn't half bad), and if you like indie rock concept albums, I'd consider picking it up. It's hard to really define the genre for Arcade Fire because they get inspiration from so many different places. I'd consider listening to the songs Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Ready to Start, City With No Children and Half Light II (No Celebration). If you enjoy those, you're likely to enjoy the whole album and I really would consider picking it up. Also, it's 17 tracks long, so it's definitely value for money.