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Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

by on September 2, 2010


Rarely will you find an album that invokes the feeling of welcome-ness , the feeling of seeing a friend with open arms beckon you forward, that’s the emotional response you’ll get instantly on Arcade Fire’s new album The Suburbs.

The Suburbs with a bit of analyization, feels almost perfectly formed in structure; the first song, “The Suburbs”, grabs your attention and entices you to listen further, the following song, “Ready to Start”, is appropriately named, with its poppy guitar riffs forming a musical trance around you, caressing you with an increasing layer of of instrumentation, as only Arcade Fire can do. Once enveloped in the bass ridden chorus it suddenly stops, and you have reached the actual meat of the album. Unexpectedly, you find yourself on a tour-bus traversing the ins and outs of the mental maze that is the suburban life, it’s a ride full of ambivalency towards the surrounding world, a ride full of angst, confusion, depression, existential thinking, and hope for the future.

Based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Arcade Fire have, almost instantly, become the name in anthem rock music. Astonishingly, Arcade Fire have released three albums, only three albums, and, respectively, these albums have been some of the greatest of the decade; Arcade Fire truly, to use a pun, cannot be put out…ooh that was hard to take in.

Lead singer/songwriter Win Butler and wife Régine Chassagne head the band with half poise and the other half consisting of some sort of rebel-esque-living-for-the-now activism. Forming in 2003, Arcade Fire quickly became infused with the local music scene, and showing their chops clearly paid off because soon they were signed onto indie-rock lable Merge Records. Soon after, in 2004, Fire released Funeral. Rarely in music does a band produce a good first album, let alone an album that signifies a change in the way music is made, an album that influences a whole new following in music; that’s exactly what Fire did. In fact, they weren’t done either, it wouldn’t be unexpected for Arcade Fire to wither out and die after Funeral becoming a hit, it was an amazing album, but they weren’t done. In 2007 Neon Bible was released, once again becoming highly rated with both critiques and the public.

Arcade Fire is not a two man project, however, it consists of Richard Reed Perry, Jeremy Gara, and Win’s brother William Butler, all possessing the supremely-eclectic talent of multi-instrumental playing. Arcade Fire is infamous for the use of out-of-the-box instrumentation such as the glockenspiel, mandolin, hurdy gurdy, accordion, etc. The best part of this variety of instruments is that it’s not just for show, these instruments compliment and complete the music that Fire produces, unlike other bands who are just in it for show… Even so, on stage Arcade Fire increases its man power to around ten people all playing something, whether it be the bells or accordion, and all contribute immensely.

I had the privilege of recently seeing Arcade Fire at Lollapalooza this year and, boy, was that a show, if it wasn’t the best show I’ve ever been to then it’s easily top three! Win Butler can really belt those notes out, and as Fire goes through its set, which consists of hits from Funeral and Neon Bible as well as songs from The Suburbs, a sense of pure beauty and satisfaction is a mutual sensation throughout the crowd, it’s a feeling that you can’t truly know until you’ve been there. Ask anyone who was there and they’ll say the same thing, Arcade Fire gave their fans everything they could, and then they gave even more, they are truly a musical act worth seeing.

As the set was winding down, Régine Chassagne began singing “Sprawl II”, I mention this because, to me, it was angelic. Chassagne brought out streamers and began weaving them through the air, spinning here and there, her dress making the impression of her floating on air, her voice so pure and innocent, an image that will always be impressed in my memories of one of the true beauties of life.

Arcade Fire has shown us that beautiful music has no limits, the media has tried to contradict this fact, ingraining in our minds the idea of the limit of stardom, the idea that our idols have to become something lesser than human, but Arcade Fire has proven the media wrong. As time goes Arcade Fire will be looked upon as one of the great bands of all-time, in fact, it may already be shaping up that way. In short, get The Suburbs.

The Suburbs contains a number of gems for a variety of moods, I suggest “Half Light I”, “Suburban War”, and “Rococo” to start. If you are new to Arcade Fire perhaps start with their 2004 album Funeral and then move on respectively.


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