The Suburbs

by Arcade Fire

Husband and wife team Régine Chassagne & Win Butler return with the rest of their band to serve up their third album as Arcade Fire. Surprisingly The Suburbs is currently sitting pretty at the top of the UK album charts; we suspect this may have something to do with their anal fans wanting to get the album eight times, as its been released with that many cover options.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

It opens promisingly enough with ‘The Suburbs’, jogging along as it does at a pleasantly orchestrated pace, that might even cause the Badly Drawn Boy to raise an eyebrow over its familiarity to his own work.

‘Ready to Start’ rumbles on like an unstoppable tube train, flying down the tracks without a care in the world. However, it neither threatens to ever slam on the breaks nor put the pedal to the metal; instead it maintains a safe speed throughout.

And that’s a common theme for the entire album. It never shows any sign of being threatening. It’s complacent, repetitive and dreary. It’s how we imagine it would be to live in California; initially the idea of a constantly warm temperature would have its obvious allure, but after a while, a sunny disposition would want us craving something more. Listening to the The Suburbs from beginning to end, you don’t just pray for a little rain, you want an almighty storm to end all storms.

With an hour of music, you would also expect one or two catchy tunes; the kind that sneak in when you’re not looking then crank up the volume in your head when you least expect it. All you get here however is the musical equivalent of tumbleweed.

‘Empty Room’ threatens to wake you from this overwhelming malaise, with dear old Reggie chipping in with the vocals. The track also has a greater sense of urgency about it; at its best it’s reminiscent of early Cocteau Twins, but alas, being one of the shortest tracks on the LP, the light it shines is all too brief.

Despite its repetition, ‘Month of May’ is certainly a highlight. It’s the only time for the LP’s duration where it gets a growl on.

It’s easy to defend it as being sophisticated indie pop, but it wouldn’t be true. On a social level, it may well be making a statement about living a suburban existence; but when it’s produced with the banality associated with living that kind of life, you just want to tell it to jog on and listen to something with a bit more passion about it.

If you want pleasant for your ears, help yourself. But if you expect an album to find its way out of second gear once in a while, this coasting hell won’t be for you.

two out of five