Monday, December 13, 2010
Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2010: Number 19
Arcade Fire albums have tended before now to crash into life - think the snowbound desperation of Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) and the existential angst driving Black Mirror. The Suburbs greets us with a title track that eschews bombast for, frankly, pub piano and mid-paced acoustic strum. So it takes its time in getting going, but this time the pleasures are more than skin deep. Neon Bible seems to have become their Be Here Now but a cursory listen demonstrates it retains its bulwarking ambition; The Suburbs' aim is merely to reconnect with home before it got cut off by the snow and instant loud hit be damned. That makes it sounds dull, but there's more than enough to suggest their still somehow singular pursuit of something intangible beyond the lot in life remains intact.
There's a lot of flicking around the area within which the collective's abilities stretch, from chamber strings to unsteady fieriness, as if they've looked at those who took the skyscraping marches for their own use and shrunk back. It almost sounds contended at times, watching others make their mistakes while taking a soul-filled recce of sepia tinged memory. The Springsteenisms have moved on to Thunder Road, those ever present "kids" triumphant but wary. Win Butler can still act as the preacher, but this time he's not so much lecturing as observing, wondering why these people are being given the opportunity to make the same mistakes he did. Half Light II (No Celebration) sees him move back home and find it's no place for him any more because he was living off his memories; Suburban War sees him attempt to come to terms with the change. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) is a real curveball, where Regine makes like Bjork joining The Knife in an Abba tribute that's actually about the creeping influence of the city and whether one can ever truly escape it. Now more than ever, sometimes they feel like they just don't belong.
We Used To Wait (illustrative video of The Wilderness Downtown, for which Google Chrome is recommended)
The full list