Album: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Mercury/Sonovox)
Loss, hope and clarity: it's the new sound of 'The Suburbs'
Sunday 01 August 2010
Around the time of Arcade Fire's second album
Neon Bible it felt as though, if they got any more ponderous and pompous, their third would need to be announced by plumes of smoke from Vatican chimneys and carried into shops by Black Rod on a velvet cushion.
All of which makes The Suburbs even more of a refreshing surprise. Somehow, the Montreal septet have shrugged off the weight of their own self-importance and discovered a new sense of purpose. The Suburbs is a concept album, but one which is free from the deadening pretentiousness that phrase usually entails, and in this respect, it doesn't hurt that the sound twinkles in a crystalline manner reminiscent at times of 1980s bands such as Simple Minds, and at other times like a previous generation's idea of lushness (Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac).
The life of the English suburbs has been well represented in art, from the poetry of Betjeman to the music of Suede. The US equivalent has been documented in songs by Springsteen and on screen by American Beauty. Here's the Canadian version.
The Suburbs' title track, a gentle country-rock reel at the pace of a horse-drawn wagon rolling through a market town, finds Win Butler in nostalgic, wistful mode. It's a mood, and a theme, that – aside from the anomalous being-in-a-band narrative "Month of May" – never ebbs away.
A feeling of loss permeates every cadence, as well as a doomed hope that what is lost can be recaptured. Most poignant of all is "Sprawl One (Flatland)", in which Butler embarks on a failed mission to find his old playgrounds, and finds himself caught in a reverie about a time when "Cops shine their lights on the reflectors of our bikes and say, 'You kids know what time it is?'" At which point something extraordinary happens. Out of the blue, they launch into "Sprawl Two (Mountains Beyond Mountains)", a glistening piece of disco-pop with a helium vocal from Régine Chassagne, heading inevitably to a hipster-filled electro-indie dancefloor near you. It's one of the most wonderful things you'll hear all year, and threatens to outshine and overshadow not only this already fine album, but Arcade Fire's entire oeuvre.
The Independent's Culture Club is looking for reader reviews of Arcade Fire's third album; leave your thoughts below.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 The jihadi girls who went to Syria weren't just radicalised by Isis — they were groomed
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
James Bond: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming 007 film Spectre
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'