Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Out in the suburbs, something’s brewing below the shopping malls and the cookie-cutter-house-complacency. There’s something dark. A “Suburban War” perhaps? The Arcade Fire’s third album, The Suburbs, is much more subdued than their first two albums, but the tension is still there. The seven-piece ensemble create deep, complex layers of violins, electric guitars, keyboards, and accordion.
In the title track, front man Win Butler asks “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 “damage” refers to the taming of people and entire societies. “They hear the singing/And told me to stop/Quit the pretentious things and just punch the clock,” Regine Chassagne sings later in “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountain).”
Although the album as a whole is more subtle and controlled, there are still several tracks that recently proved to be quite arena-friendly at their epic, two-evening stint at the Garden. “Empty Room” is a song made to be turned up full-volume. It features chasing violins and growling, exploding electric guitars. “Month of May” takes on a more in-your-face punk sound with angry, pounding drums and the kids “standing with their arms folded tight.”
In “Half Light II (No Celebration)” the scene is set in our dark, post-stock market-crash era when people have to “pay the cost” for everything that’s come undone. Butler sings, “Oh this city’s changed so much/Since I was a little child./Pray to God I won’t live to see/The death of everything that’s wild” before letting out a feral “whoop” that ricochets.
Although almost every song on the album is truly excellent, “We Used to Wait” certainly takes the prize. With a repetitive piano note and driving drum beat, the violins turn in waves, swelling and building, and the song takes on a brave, anthem-like feel. At the beginning of the song, Butler’s voice is low and quivering, but by the end, he’s shouting out the chorus. As I recently experienced live at the Garden, this is a song that begs everyone to join in with the chorus, even if it’s your first time hearing it, and the result is other-worldly.