When critics throw around terms such as “perfect,” “unbelievable” and “classic,” call me a cynic, but my eyebrow instantly raises in a questioning manner. The standards for which to call an album any of those words are so subjective, it’s hard to reconcile in my brain calling any modern musical tunes these trumped up titles. That said with all the hype and anticipation burning up for Arcade Fire’s new album, much of it is solidly justified. It is not “perfect,” but it’s good hunk of listening, perhaps even tips the scales beyond good.
With “The Suburbs” clocking in at a mammoth hour plus, you would expect the band to loose some steam somewhere in the midst and have a “throw away” track or two. But the Fire created a very cohesive album that is not fully appreciated unless listened to in its entirety. Sure, 16 tracks is a lot to ear-dure, and perhaps they could have cut that down a smidge, but as it is, it’s very thoughtfully constructed set of tunes. While there are some standouts, pulling singles is a tricky matter when the ebb and flow is so vital to the collection. The theme of aging and growing up is encompassing, with lyrics both earnest and personal. From the start, with the title track, Win Bulter muses, “Sometimes I can’t believe it, I’m moving past the feeling.”
The range of diversity shown on “The Suburbs” is wowing. Taking influence from both Depeche Mode and Neil Young, with songs that ring of Springsteen and U2, there is a little something that will likely appeal to boarders beyond the typical indie audience.
While the first half of the album has solid tracks with “Modern Man” and “City With No Children,” the real gems come about mid-album with “Half Light I” at the helm. This sweeping tune is so lovely and lush pulsing with light and energy and serenaded by airy vocals. Its partner, “Half Light II,” is also charming, but seems to serve as a bridge on this amazingly constructed mix tape. The followers, “Suburban War” and “Month of May” are arguably the standouts at the climax of the album. “Suburban War” has tinkering strings dancing around mournful, reflective hushed vocals. The latter, features a picked-up pace, punky guitars and a fist-shaking rebellious attitude. At the conclusion, Arcade Fire smoothly and smartly delivers “Sprawl I” and “Sprawl II.” “Sprawl I” sets the stage for “Sprawl II” by creating a tense environment with the use of strings, and its overarching quiet strength. “Sprawl II” eases the listener offering sweet relief with its glimmering electric synth-pop energy and shimmy-worthy quality.
After listening to “The Suburbs” repeatedly, I feel the gravitational pull of its infectious qualities. There are a whole lot of really excellent and rare things encapsulated in this hour(ish) of recorded musical bliss. Perfect? No. A perfect addition to this music lovers ever expanding collection? Definitely.
Words: Lori Bartlet
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