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I've been a fan of Arcade Fire since my early teens and have consistently listened to and enjoyed their music for years. I was always greatly disappointed each year when I would see a selection of brand new albums from almost every other band bar the actual one I really wanted to make one. So in 2010 when they finally made a new album in 2010 following on from their previous album Neon Bible which was made in 2006 and released the following year, I was greatly excited to listen to it.
Despite, as I say, being a fan, it wasn't until late 2010 verging on 2011 that I actually really sat down and listened to the singles from the album, which are 'The Suburbs' the album's namesake, 'Ready To Start', ''We Used to Wait' and City With No Children In' (released later in 2011). The Suburbs, the single, only ever achieved mild success in the charts, reaching only 94 in Canada, the band's homeland, but this is to be expected from an 'indie' band who by definition aim to be individual. The singles of the album are all excellent and maintain a fluidity that is common throughout the whole album. Often I find that modern albums lack the same 'feel' throughout from start to finish and so think it is a real success of Arcade Fire to create an album in this era that really fits together excellently and yet tracks play wonderfully on their own as well. The singles maintain the upbeat fast tempo commonly attributed to Arcade Fire with a little something new thrown it. It must be said, my favourite part of Arcade Fire has to be their eclectic taste and the use of a huge variety of instruments that practically make up an orchestra which include he band plays guitar, drums, bass guitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, French horn, accordion, harp, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy.
The other tracks maintain this excellence and are, in my opinion, worthy rivals of the singles, with many quite capable of standing alone compared to the released singles. One example has to be 'Modern Man' which has typically thought-provoking and interesting lyrics as well as an unusual arrangement that keeps me wanting more, wanting to see what new experimentation Arcade Fire can come up with in their next album. Sprawl I and II are other examples of great tracks in this album, and continue the theme of parts which was used in their previous album wherein the track Neighbourhood came in the form of 1,2,3 and 4. This allows one to make a distinction between the two songs and an excellent contrast can be made, especially with the addition of Régine Chassagne who provides much of the vocals in Sprawl II which is a great addition to Win Butler's vocals (the band's ordinary vocalist). The fact that the two main vocalists are married adds an excellent dimension to their accompaniments and makes their combined effort seem much more genuine and heart felt.
The album has received a number of awards and accolades, giving it the proper recognition (I feel) that it deserves. The album was Album of the Year at the Juno Awards and the 53rd Grammy Awards, and won Best International Album at the 2011 BRIT Awards. As well as this it was also featured in a number of best album of the year lists such as: #1 in Clash Magazine's Top 40 Albums of 2010, #2 NME's Top 75 Albums of 2010, and #4 - Rolling Stone's 30 Best Albums of 2010. It is refreshing to see a deserved bad receiving recognition as too often these days are bands such as this overlooked simply because they are not the individual's personal preference. I feel that it should be important to recognise the genuine skill within certain bands regardless of one's tastes, and Arcade Fire is undoubtedly a very experienced band
I'd heard of Arcade Fire many times before I bought this album, and heard a couple of their songs, but had never listened to them in great depth before. I'd also had them recommended to me serveral times by a couple of friends, but for some reason didn't take notice until I bought this album...
I listen to XFM regularly - an indie/rock/alternative music radio station. My first exposure to the album was regularly waking up to the sounds of the singles "We Used To Wait" and "Ready To Start" on my alarm clock radio before work. There was something about both songs that slowly began to stick in my subsconsious, and I thought "who is that? - I want to hear more". So I bought the album, "The Suburbs" and I have to say, I'm so glad I did - it's absolutely brilliant!
For me, the standout tracks definitely have to be:
The Suburbs - the title track, which showcases the real variety of the sounds the band produce
Ready to Start - my favourite song of the year, this is on my playlist for running, and it never gets old
Modern Man - a really catchy tune which sounds quite retro
Month of May - a quick, punky, exciting track
Suburban War - a great song with a slow build up and emotional crescendo
We Used To Wait - a pretty poignant song which is a good example of the band's often heartfelt themes
These are my favourites, but that is not to say the rest of the album isn't enjoyable. It's one of only a few which I can happily listen through from start to finish and stay really engaged. This is partly down to the variety of the music and songs, the great riffs and tunes, and the sheer difference of Arcade Fire to any other band I've listened to.
Since listening to this, I've also bought the band's first 2 albums, which I would highly recommend. They are all quite different from eachother, but the band's unique sound shines through in all 3.
The Suburbs is the brand new album by Arcade Fire.
**Who are Arcade Fire?**
In case you didn't know, Arcade Fire are an indie rock band. They come from Montreal in Canada and have been around since 2003. They have two main leads (Win Butler and Regine Chassagne) but the band also contains five other members.
Arcade Fire is well known for using a wide variety of instruments in their songs including piano, guitar, violin, organ, harp and even xylophone thus creating an eclectic selection of music.
**So what about their new album?**
Well The Suburbs is the third album from Arcade Fire (the first two being Funeral and Neon Bible) It contains 16 brand new songs;
1. "The Suburbs"
2. "Ready to Start"
3. "Modern Man"
5. "Empty Room"
6. "City with No Children"
7. "Half Light I"
8. "Half Light II (No Celebration)"
9. "Suburban War"
10. "Month of May"
11. "Wasted Hours"
12. "Deep Blue"
13. "We Used to Wait"
14. "Sprawl I (Flatland)"
15. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
16. "The Suburbs (Continued)"
All the songs complment eachother very well and unlike quite a few of their earlier songs there are a lot more female vocals present, giving the album a more relaxing easy listening feel.
Admittedly it's not as dramatic as their other albums and could almost be considered more mainstream. I think it appeals to hardcore Arcade Fire fans but is also an ideal album for those who haven't ever really listened to their music and are looking to sample them.
Like many abums it's price is varied in different shops, it seems that the average price is between £8-9 which I think is very reasonable.
Developing on the slightly more commercial-sounding promise of 2007's Neon Bible - 'Keep The Car Running' was, in my opinion, the band's first song with genuine commerciality - and ditching some of the weirder excursions made on debut record Funeral, The Suburbs is the most readily accessible of Montreal band Arcade Fire's albums thus far. It also happens to be their finest.
Inspired by the suburban childhood of Texan frontman Win Butler, The Suburbs is as diverse musically as any of Arcade Fire's previous work, but sounding sunnier and more exotic than anything they've done previous. The work here, a significant step towards more traditional pop and rock, is the most subded Arcade Fire have ever been. That policy of playing dozens of instruments in a chaotic jam has gone, replaced by more refined stuff as the band instead play to their optimum potential. Which isn't to say Arcade Fire have lost their sense of who they are. The Suburbs aches with beauty, with melancholic lament for times gone by, for youth. The closing track, 'The Suburbs (continued)' features some incredibly moving lyrics that pine for days of yore: "If I could have it back, all that time we wasted, I'd only waste it again / If I could have it back, you know I would love to waste it again."
Fittingly for an album about the suburban American life of Win Butler's youth, The Suburbs is an album that edges often toward the sound of classic American rock of old (or as close as an eclectic, at times eccentric band like Arcade Fire can come). 'City of No Children' echoes Springsteen's 'Born to Run', while 'Modern Man' tells of mundaneity, of the tale of the average working man that The Boss has so frequently glorified.
There are other influences. Bowie can be heard on 'Sprawl II'', while The Suburbs' and, particularly, 'The Month of May', hark back even further in time to the sound of '50s Americana.
How The Suburbs measures up to those examples of old-school rock is evident from the very first listen: this is musical perfection and an album that will stand the test of time as well as, and perhaps even better than, Arcade Fire's previous work.
But how does it compare to the band's other significant achievements? Well, in this reviewer's opinion, it betters them.
While Funeral instantly transported the listener to a faraway land of beauty and Neon Bible forced us to confront the dark part of our souls, the Suburbs is again a very different experience. This is Arcade Fire telling the story of a different time through a rose-tinted lens; there is dark, there is light, and the band capture perfectly the reality of suburban life and the feeling of a distant memory. Musically, The Suburbs captures the glorious nature of Funeral all over again but it trumps the band's debut by telling a real, personal story. And how does it compare to Neon Bible? This may just be me, but it seems as though Arcade Fire are more at home spreading joy than being gloomy...
There's always that small sense of dread at the announcement that a quality band - especially one that has never put a foot wrong - is to release its next album. All that uncertainty and expectation - with the reputation of Arcade Fire, and three years gone by, it would've been a travesty were they to produce anything less than a masterpiece. Turns out there was never any need to worry; on The Suburbs, Arcade Fire have not only equalled previous works but topped them with something that is probably better than anything being produced by any other band working in the world today.
Canada's finest septet all the way from Montreal, Quebec I give you Arcade Fire. They are an Indie rock band like no other, with such a distinctive dark eerie sound. The magnificent seven are fronted by husband and wife of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, the rest of the crew include Richard Reed-Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara. A versatile band Arcade Fire play a number of instruments from the violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, French horn, accordion, harp and mandolin alongside the obvious equipment, making them a diverse little outfit.
ALBUM - THE SUBURBS
The Suburbs is the third album released by the Canadians, in fact this week Monday 2nd of August in the UK and the 3rd in Fire's native homeland North America. As of yet no singles have been released, and its reception is still to be determined. However past glories include 2008 International Album of the year at both Meteors and the Juno Awards. Both predecessors Funeral and Neon Bible were nominated for Grammy's. Albums to date....
Neon Bible (2007)
The Suburbs (2010)
1 THE SUBURBS (5.15)
Essentially The Suburbs is about discontent and self doubt, and ones emotions as a youngster as Butler croons 'And you told me we'd never survive / Grab your mother's keys we're leavin' / Sometimes I can't believe it / I'm movin' past the feeling' ...Radiohead meets Roy Orbison/Neil Young in this jaunty little opener! An almost lazy, laid back stance, with an almost folky/country melody. It's subtle, but bounces along to a lazily strummed acoustic guitar, and belted piano chords. Butler's obvious vocals and a good use of dark strings give it a slightly discerning feel, his mix of shrieking and howling gives this character and a little atmosphere to really carry it home back to the suburbs (See what I did) . Overall though, I really like this opener, it's appealing on so many levels, its not in your face, but leaves a lasting impression 7/10
2 READY TO START (4.15)
'All the kids have always known / That the emperor wears new clothes / But to bow to down to them anyway / Is better than to be alone' ..More energy as we are 'Ready to Start' straight from the first eerily shaking throbbing bass line, to the poignant symbol type clanging of a guitar riff...we notch up a level. The intro sets the devilish rhythm throughout it's fast but not feverish, loud but not aggressive, symptomatic of Arcade Fire's style its lingering and ultimately atmospheric, the arrangements are simple, but clouded with the odd scattering of Rick Wakeman styled pinging keyboards. Hardcore Arcade Fire fans will love this, fantastic start to the album 8.5/10
3 MODERN MAN (4.40)
The aggressive haunted sound has dissipated to a folky feel, reminds slightly of Fleet Foxes it's a bit too gentle, and dare I say bland. The guitar solos give an edge of likeability and the chorus is slightly endearing, the drum line is ordinary, and lacks any cut, the keyboards have lost its flair, barely noticeable, saved mainly by the likeable driven guitar riffs, lyrically a little unappealing and repetitive. Not really a Modern Man, just a boring one here. 5/10
4 ROCOCO (3.57)
'They seem wild but they are so tame / They're moving towards you with their colours all the same / They want to own you but they don't know what game they're playing' ... Sinister almost Spaghetti western styled intro, which flakes into a whirlwind of eerie guitar riffs, that efficiently switch into one another, it reminds me slightly of 'My Body is a Cage' off their last album 'Neon Bible' ..where this is not an instrumental, the singing really only plays second fiddle, its repetitive and understated, it's all about the differing guitar solo's that fizz, and evolve into an eerie haze of something ever so chilling, I think this track really has to grow on you, and could possibly work even better without the tones of Butler as it make the track a little monotonous and slightly annoying, with a word I've no understanding of. Having said all that, I do like it, but its more an album track for me...a track that blends into any Arcade Fire album 5/10
5 EMPTY ROOM (2.52)
The opening 5 seconds sounds like the Levellers use of the Fiddle on speed, it's aggressive and Tyson Gay like! FAST! Which then blends into a more aggressive darker heavier sound, one which overrides the airy vocals of Regine Chassagne's, whom takes over momentarily from Butler. Sounds a little like 'No Cars Go' off 'Neon Bible' but at a much higher tempo, no letting up on this track, it lacks any kind of melody and just build around this battering rhythm, it has no chorus to let up the speed, and basically feels like a wall of domineering noise, the light eerie vocals of Chassagne makes this succeed though, I suspect many would not like this, but again it's very Arcade Fire and I think it's superb, driven and dark 8/10
6 CITY WITH NO CHILDREN (3.11)
City with no children, seems to take a different direction it almost tries to scale the heights of a Bruce Springsteen Epic, however it never really seems to get near, the tones of Butler don't really suit such a directive, as they are subtler than the forceful glands of Springsteen. What saves this from disappointment is the booming simple driven Bass line, it just distorts out of the speakers with such venom, overlapping with a decent drum line and some pretty instrumentals to lighten up another dark effort, City with No Children has charm, but just lacks an edge. 6/10
7 HALF LIGHT I (4.14)
Lightening up the gloom, is Half Light....it does what it says on the tin, it's half a chink of light in a dark album, this delicate little drift of strings is so inviting, it completely changes the complex of the album, as the echoed vocals soaked with strings, and a beautifully poised bass line makes this sound quite dreamy, and something you could drift of into, it's also on grandiose scale, as although soft, it's use of percussion gives it a dramatic edge. A definite surprise to me, but I love it, and one of my favourite tracks of the album, however if you are new to Arcade Fire I'd not recommend you just listen to this, as however dramatic it still is, not really represents their eclectic sound. 10/10
8 HALF LIGHT II (No Celebration) (4.27)
Big booming drum line kicks in, to a Ting Tings fizzing guitar riff! The bass line again is prominent and stands out, accompanied with some beautiful piano chords. The instrumentals are fantastic on this almost rapturous as they have seen the 'light' or achieved something.. Pulsating electro Half Light II carries on from where the first finishes, but on a grander scale, its more dramatic and in your face, why these two tracks work is the use of the differing singers individual tones, Chassagne on the first, with her airy light vocals, and Butler on this with his sultry, crooning tone, you feel as though you have come through the other side and gleaming with pride, fantastic and I like the way they have carried this little passage of the album out, shows great though. 8.5/10
9 SUBURBAN WAR (4.41)
We calm down a little for a rather sultry Suburban War, it's a little like the opener in it's laid back almost lazy stance, until we get about half way through and it picks up pace slightly, till we slow back down again! Good use of electric guitar, some jaunty little riffs, that lifts this from becoming a little to bland. Butler raises his game, shifting his voice exceptionally well giving this some added appeal. However towards the end, we reach a grandiose finish, but sounds more like a barrage of noise, that lacks any inspiration or creativity, the War is not lost, but not yet won either, No mans land me thinks 6/10
10 MONTH OF MAY (3.50)
'Month of May it's a violent thing / In the city their hearts start to sing / Well some people singing sounds like screaming / Used to doubt it but now I believe it' ...Arcade Fire meets the Sex Pistols, some fiery punk here in an unusual twist, adding even more variety to an already diverse album, it's frenetic and furious. However I don't really like it, its far to dark and noisy to be able to hear what's going on, the rampaging bass guitar has some appeal as it punches along, a little drum line ditty in the middle is fun, and should have been explored more to lighten up the mood. But not really one for me.5/10
11 WASTED HOURS (3.21)
An acoustic slow strum, that lacks anything really, it's bland and boring. I find no inspiration at all for this, and I think they must have wasted hours making it, perhaps they should have cut this from an already long album, length over substance? Boring 2/10
12 DEEP BLUE (4.28)
A piano led ballad, that jaunts along brightly a folky Neil Young little number, it has a slightly reflective mood to it. As the tempo has slowed it allows us to appreciate Butler's engaging voice, it's a simple arrangement the riffs and drum line are constant and fairly repetitive, but the frenetic use of vibrant Piano chords opens this up. Some fizzing overlapping riffs towards the end, gives the end a slightly different feeling as though the mood has changed somewhat. Deep Blue, is a decent track, but it would not stand alone, It didn't leave me feeling blue, but not deep enough to leave a lasting impression. 6/10
13 WE USED TO WAIT (5.01)
'So I never wrote a letter / I never took my true heart I never wrote it down / So when the lights cut out / I was left standing in the wilderness downtown' ...Sounds like an Abba Intro with haunted Sinicism, Depeche Mode meets Arcade Fire in this post-new wave rock track, full of off-on rhythms and group harmonies. A completely different structure and feel to this, no strings or jazzed up instruments, just beautifully constructed with haunting appeal, the eerie use of Piano is inspirational, it actually has a far more polished feel to the whole song, unlike most other Arcade Fire songs. It's fairly understated and maybe a little repetitive, but has to be one of the better songs to the album, and I'd guess at one of the singles to be released, this is real music at its best, fantastic 10/10
14 SPRAWL I (Flatland) (2.51)
This desolate flatland, that lacks atmosphere, the despondency in Butler's voice as he has to return home to admission of failure, which comprises into another ballad, this time fairly mournful and reflective recounting social stereotypes and not fitting in, social abandonment. This atmospheric masterpiece evolves throughout, lots of sinister synthesizers and big booming bass lines, accompanied by Butler's yearning, mournful sound. Really atmospheric and eerie, which is what Arcade Fire do best, however the composition is different, it's full of stop starts and interludes, it's not at all flowing, which gives it extra bite. 7/10
15 SPRAWL II (Mountains beyond Mountains) (5.18)
My favourite song, as Regine Chassagne powers out mind numbing trapped sensations, the ramblings of happy youthful times 'We rode our bikes / to the nearest park / sat under the swings and kissed in the dark' to the ultimate depressive but uplifting 'They heard me singing / and they told me to stop / quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock' To the ultra defiant 'These days, my life, I feel it has no purpose / But late at night the feelings swim to the surface'...Sprawl II could not be any different to the depressing Sprawl I, it's a joyous, glittering change up, even a masterpiece, full of sultry, bouncing synthesizers, and insistent beats, It's almost glorious as Chassagne yelps out ala Kate Bush in her pomp, almost glam-pop if there is such a thing. I love this it gives a totally different complexion again to an already morbid, depressive proper Indie sounding album. It feels very 80's futuristic bubbling pop, almost cheesy infact. it's a totally different directive for Arcade Fire, and it really works, and a definite highlight for me, and a good way to finish the album on a total uplifting elative high, full marks AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!!! 10/10
16 THE SUBURBS (Continued) (1.27) - Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark, an atmospheric finale.
Arcade Fire's third album is very challenging, the sound from its predecessors are not so different but its diversity is. This album is full of different twist and directions, of which most of them work.
Where as Neon Bible had amazingly stand out tunes, this lacks, however as a concept or as a whole album, The Suburbs is streets ahead (bum, bum), Neon Bible was not at all polished, and didn't flow as a theme/set, but this ultimately does.
I think 'The Suburbs' is a complex chapter, which is captivating and mystical, its unlike anything else Indie in the market and something they do best, this album seems to be moulded this Montreal septet.
The only negative is that 16 tracks could be too long, and to appreciate this as a classic album, it should have been shortened as to be fair there are a few tracks that should be scrapped, but that's only a minor criticism, after all you do get your moneys worth.
The concept of 'The Suburbs' is largely about discontent and social apathy, the lyrics are fairly bitter and resentful on not only society but seemingly its own fans, which seems a little odd. It hits out on modern culture and the youth of today, and the lack of soul or togetherness the modern 'Suburb' has to offer.
Whereas the album does not preach to us, its slightly condescending and a little irritable, but I cannot say I really take much notice, musicians live to have a go at something, and probably should not be taken too seriously.
The suburbs has a nice blend of subtly to it, its not all dark and atmospheric, lights are apparent, with chinks of intimacy, and moments to uplift the listener. But basically its what Indie bands do best, it's mildly depressive but brought about in a more charismatic manner, its packed with sinister piano chords, and freakish keyboards, booming bass lines and large rolling drum lines.
It's largely compared by some to Bruce Springsteen or Depeche Mode, the latter I could agree with slightly, but the former I cannot really see It myself, I think they are fairly unique in their own sound, and although snippets can be likened to various artists like Neil Young or Radiohead its not really.
I think it's ultimately an eclectic taste, lovers of the first two albums will not be disappointed, I'd recommend track 2 or 5 to anyone whom is new to Arcade Fire, as this is the heartbeat of they're sound, if these fail to inspire you, then this album is not really for you I'd imagine. However my favourite is track15 its sensation-ore!!
Overall, I loved this thematic composition of sounds, I think they pull it off really well, yeah a few minor negatives, but on the whole a major thumbs up, and possibly one of the albums of the year in my opinion, and easily out ranks previous efforts.
SOME DAYS JUST SUCK ...... THEN YOU FIND SOME SALVATION!
Amazon price : £8.93 (Only just been released)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Suburbs
2 Ready To Start
3 Modern Man
5 Empty Room
6 City With No Children
7 Half Light I
8 Half Light II (No Celebration)
9 Suburban War
10 Month Of May
11 Wasted Hours
12 Deep Blue
13 We Used To Wait
14 Sprawl I (Flatland)
15 Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
16 The Suburbs (Continued)