"The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire
The Suburbs

Merge Records
2010

Review

Here's my Indy Rock gripe: a lot of it is guilty of not having enough of a catchy hook to make you forget you are listening to an Indy Rock band. I can't say that I'm an Indy Rock snob and I think that my previous statement will clue you in on why. That said, we do review a fair number of Indy Rock records around these parts, and most of them are pretty darn good. This latest release from Arcade Fire is also pretty darn good. For this listener, it could have been pretty darn amazing but there are a few moments where the songs don't quite get there. But overall, yeah, this is really, really good stuff and the difference between a 4 song and a 5 song is so subjective that y'all Indy Rock types out there will probably disagree (and blog about why I'm wrong).

Case in point for me is the single that is making by-hourly rotations on the radio, "Ready To Start". I like this song. I really do. It's just that I feel like it could be more. To me the chorus isn't chrousy enough. I know - how dare I criticize an Indy Rock band for not being "poppy" enough. But c'mon, be honest "I'm Ready to Start" is too short to be an effective chorus. It's still a great song! Please don't mistake me here. It's a solid 4/5 song for me...but a more memorable chorus, and it would have been a 5. The same goes for the album opener "The Suburbs". "The Suburbs" is a very folky-song and Sounds like what you would expect an indy rock song to sound like. For some reason, I can't help but compare this to what Girls did on their last record. That said, it is a really well-constructed song. I like the lyrics a lot. Just a bit sleepy. But a good song none the less. The band has some really, truly great lyrics and this song is a good example of that:

So can we understand that I want a daughter while I'm still young
I want to hold her hand
Show her some beauty before this damage is done
But if it's too much to ask
But if it's too much to ask
Then send me a sign

So where does it go right? Oh man, lots of places. Like on my favorite moment on the album, "Modern Man". "Modern Man" is an example of the perfect Indy Rock song. I think it is the most infectiously catchy song on the album. I think this song deserves to be the single off the record - more so than "Ready to Start". It's got a great rhythm, great lyrics, and great hooks both lyrical and musical. If you hate the rest of this, at least give this a try. "Suburban War", "Month of May" and "Wasted Hours" are amazing songs as well and so is "Sprawl II" (which reminded me of a Blondie Song so naturally, I loved it).

Thematically the album sticks to the stresses and ups and downs of those members of the middle class in the US. If this album were a movie, the stereotypical American Suburb would be the main character. I loved the line we watched the end of the century compressed on a tiny screen from "Deep Blue" (which does in fact mention the super computer beating Kasparov at chess).

I have to be critical because that's what I'm supposed to do. But listen to my criticism here: I'm saying that sometimes the songs are just great when they could have been amazing. If you are even remotely interested in this genre of music, feel free to pick this up because it is very good. Sure, there are some songs that won't hook you as much as they could (and a few that don't at all) but this is most definitely worth your time.

4.133 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The Suburbs (05:15) 4
2. Ready to Start (04:15) 5
3. Modern Man (04:40) 5
4. Rococo (03:56) 3
5. Empty Room (02:51) 3
6. City With No Children (03:11) 4
7. Half Light I (04:13) 4
8. Half Light II (No Celebration) (04:27) 3
9. Month of May (03:50) 5
10. Wasted Hours (03:20) 5
11. Deep Blue (04:28) 4
12. We Used to Wait (05:01) 4
13. Sprawl I (Flatland) (02:54) 3
14. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (05:25) 5
15. Suburban War (04:45) 5
16. The Suburbs (continued) (01:27)