Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Remember when Arcade Fire seemed so revolutionary? Rarely has such hype surrounded one band as when Funeral organically disseminated among the increasingly fanatic masses. Even rarer is such hype so justified. Still, such levels of exposure wear thin with even the most talented of bands, and so it's difficult to get quite as excited about the third album from the Montreal based ensemble. When you've released an album as universally loved as Funeral, it'll always be a difficult thing to equal. Neon Bible didn't quite live up to the challenge, and The Suburbs won't either, not because they're lesser works, but simply because Arcade Fire were instrumental in creating new musical trends that unfortunately now make them much less thrillingly unique than they once were.
To draw the obvious comparisons, The Suburbs is a much less grandiose affair than Neon Bible, and has only a few of the kind of ravishing anthems that earned Funeral its place at the top of many critics' "best albums of the decade" lists. If anything, Arcade Fire have adopted a simpler rock and roll vibe on The Suburbs, which contrasts strongly with the orchestral backdrops and embellishments intermittent throughout. The grizzly punk guitars and solid rhythms of 'Month of May' are symptomatic of this shift, as is 'Wasted Hours', though in a mellower acoustic manner.
Conversely, it's the ambient violin flourishes and atmospheric reverb that make 'Rococo' quietly beautiful, and the exotic Caribbean flavoured synth pop of 'Sprawl II' that make it stand out a mile from the other 15 tracks here. Saloon style piano shapes the title track, while the same instrument strikes repeated staccato chords on 'We Used To Wait'. Patience is required in places, such as the 70s folk influenced 'Suburban War', which ambles along calmly to a retro guitar but later hits its stride with battering drums and echoing backing vocals.
But, few though they may be, it's those huge, pulsating, rip-roaring anthems that make Arcade Fire shine. The driving guitars, catchy melody and gripping suspense in 'Ready To Start' will no doubt make it a live favourite, even despite the lack of a sing-along worthy chorus. They may no longer be deemed the seminal band of our time, but Arcade Fire are still well ahead of the game.
Review by Jenny Mulligan | 09:00 | Friday 30th July 2010 | Album Review
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