Arcade Fire did it. Amidst unreal expectations and an absolute cavalcade of hype, the Montreal based alternative rock band managed to deliver an album that embodies a genuine sense of suburban frustration while coupling it with a slight embracing attitude of the situation.
The album contains sixteen tracks, and it’s the variety that keeps the album fresh even after several listens. This isn’t a fast food album, where you whisk through the drive-thru, pick up your food and go and it’s over too quick. This is a fine dining experience at a five-star restaurant, where each course blends together with the previous and subsequent selections.
The album begins with the title track “The Suburbs”, and after plenty of listens really stands out as one of the finer songs among the entire collection. It sets the tone for the entire album, and it’s clear to see the type of imagery we are going to be presented with and what kind of feelings are going to be discussed by the band. Songs like “Rococo”, “Suburban War”, “Wasted Hours”, and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” really stand out amongst the collection, but honestly every song is phenomenal.
After listening to that album for nearly a week, it still feels new. Each time through a particular phrase jumps out, or a new emotion captures you. This is the remarkable strength of music , and Arcade Fire just seem to embody true, earnest emotion better than nearly every other musician/band.
The album deals with important topics–aspirations, regret, family, frustration–but it never sounds or feels overwhelming. The lyrics are absolutely fantastic (and I’m not particularly a lyrics guy in most cases), and given the strong words that accompany the music this could have been a very angsty album. But Arcade Fire never feel whiny or annoy us with their views or attitudes. Somehow, they rise above the pack into Bruce Springsteen levels of telling it like it is.
It’s a majestic collection of tracks that never once fades out or loses steam. Each track is part of a fantastic gathering of songs, but they’re also unique enough to stand on their own. Each song is so strong that you gain something new from them each time around the neighborhood. Win Butler said that the album isn’t a love letter or an indictment of the suburbs, but that “it’s a letter from the suburbs.” It’s a brilliant letter at that.
This album will become a generational classic. The album artwork will appear on t-shirts for the next two decades and beyond. Listeners now will be able to recall how the album made them feel in 2010, and future music fans will be able to listen to and get a grasp on the state of alternative music at the time. The Suburbs is destined to become a classic album, one that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. It will be an album that an entire generation can look back on decades from now.
Score: 9.9/10 (Nearly Flawless)