Flipping the mundane trappings of suburban life into a captivating concept album, The Arcade Fire once more whip us into transcendental flight that’s a confident step forwards.
Early tracks ‘Ready To Start’ and ‘Modern Man’ brim with bravery and optimism, as singer Win Butler ironically breezes: “The clock keeps ticking / I’m a modern man”, deconstructing the issues of time and age. Every song presents memories in glorious translucence. Familiarity mingles with the fear of the unknown whilst the decaying urban façade becomes a shifting canvas upon which they batter their rhythmic tales. And it’s honest. Authentic memories are presented by Butler brothers Win and Will from family life in Houston on ‘City With No Children’ with its sepia confessions stolen from their family’s photo albums.
As ever Arcade Fire fuck with detail and album architecture: they present the sixteen tracks in mixed up parts, reprises launch new songs, whilst the album both starts and closes with ‘Suburbs’ – the prologue an optimistic piano jaunt, the epilogue a fading classical wander. Oh, and they slip in a disco track too. Yup, a disco track!
So where are the stompers? ‘Month Of May’ is a balls-out rock monster where they peel back their fascinating layers to simple lyrics with deep riffing. Next single ‘We Used To Wait’ – the album’s peak – gifts an insistent singular piano note mingling with anxious guitar musings, dramatic lyrics and strings angled at the heavens before a swirling break unleashes every possible strata of their seven-strong cacophony. A goose-bumping anthem of their highest order.
Taking their perennial themes of loss, fear, control and time they’ve re-woven their epic art rock around their fascinating suburban theme that literally lies on our own doorstep. Album reviews are often littered with hyperbole yet ‘Suburbs’ flattens them like the demolition balls that have so shaped their urban subject matter. Growing old gracefully with their existential angst they’ve once again captured yet more amorphous facets of the human condition in not so much a labour of love, as a labour of life. Further proof that The Arcade Fire may indeed be the best band on the planet.
Words by Matthew Bennett