Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Albums2010 #37: The Suburbs

A far better Quebecois export than Celine Dion, Arcade Fire is one of those bands that can take you awhile to appreciate, understand and ultimately fall in love with. I've been pondering on why that is for awhile now, but think that I've finally managed to hit on an answer: they, more than any other musician/musical group/band that I've listened to over the course of this project deal in albums far more than singles.

What do I mean by that? When you think of Arcade Fire, you don't really think of a Top 40 radio hit. Turn on your local radio station: bet you don't hear any songs by Arcade Fire- but, here's the catch: as albums, they produce some brilliant gems. There's a reason these guys won "Album Of The Year' at the Grammys this year: it's because really and truly, they produced an amazing, complete album that lives up to the title.

These guys are unusual: they've got 8 members and play-guitar, drums, bass guitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, French horn, accordion, harp, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy. This isn't your average rock n'roll band, that's for sure-and it's hard to listen to one single Arcade Fire song in isolation. This album moves seamlessly from song to song, almost as if it's one, long experience.

So, The Suburbs: this is a damn difficult album to quantify. There's a certain sparse melancholy that seems to infuse a lot of the tracks of the album, which makes perfect sense to me. If Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town exposes the brutal, blasted wastelands of working class America to the world, then Arcade Fire turns it's equally powerful guns onto the spare, superficiality of life in the suburbs. It seems shiny and modern and yet underneath, there's angst and emptiness aplenty to go around. It seems to capture the mood of the Millenial Generation perfectly- which is why I keep meaning to burn The Quiet Man a copy.

But there's a catch: you jump from subdued melancholy into driving rock and back again throughout the album: the mood shifts. You could see these guys playing some tracks in rusty, run down smoke-filled clubs and you could see them playing other tracks to screaming hordes in sold-out stadiums- which just adds to the intriguing complexity of the entire album.

I had heard of Arcade Fire before this- listened to a track or two and didn't really seem like my cup of tea, but now I totally understand. Fans of Justin Bieber* take note: I firmly believe that the Grammys got this one absolutely right. The Suburbs is a complete package of songs that blend together to form an amazing album that truly was worthy of the title Album of the Year.

Overall: Amazing. If you've never wanted to dip your toes in the magnificent pool that is Arcade Fire, start here.

*A truly diabolic thought came to mind while driving out to Billion Hyundai this morning: maybe Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are actually the same person! Has anyone checked into this?

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