Stafford Presents

The Arcade Fire – Suburbs

‘The Suburbs’ is a concept album that unsurprisingly deals with the deep and meaningful ‘concept’ of suburban life. It provides a sharp social critique, attacking apathy and conformism in such a way that it attracts an emotional response at base level. The effect is such that listening to this record encourages you to leave the house and make something of yourself. It encourages you to want better, in the faint hope you may eventually end up with something than the meaningless existence of your elders. It speaks of the idea of a better way.

Or it would, if anyone actually listened to the end.

It is fair to say that instead of providing a thought provoking insight into the ‘previously unexplored’ idea of suburbia, the album simply descents into itself. It becomes dull and lifeless, in a sense, everything it is speaking out against. For example, the predictably titled opener ‘The Suburbs’ lazily trudges through two riffs for its five minute duration, with plenty of clean guitar and reverberating noise in the background. This is essentially the formula for most of the rest of the album. Many of the subsequent tracks feature the same basic instrumentation, slow pace and background synthy noise that makes the title track a hard listen. Indeed, tracks like ‘City With No Children’ and ‘Rococo’ lack any purpose and direction, essentially providing a listening experience as apathetic as the suburban lifestyle the album criticises. Similarly, there appears to be a lack of deeper meaning in the album itself – rather than open up to listener, the second spin accentuates the negative aspects of it that made the second listen necessary in the first place.

That isn’t to say there aren’t any attempts at variation – the album’s second, and standout track ‘Ready to Start’ is a faster paced, and altogether more lively affair, making for an engaging listening experience. Similarly, the verses of ‘Modern Man’ differentiate themselves from the droll of the rest of the album using a pattern of odd time signatures. However, these standout moments are few and far between, with each catchy riff interspersed with many that lack variation and quality.

In this sense, ‘The Suburbs’ is a pretty underwhelming album, failing for the most part to live up to the hype surrounding The Arcade Fire. While there are some moments of note, for the most part the album provides the soundtrack to the tedium of suburbia rather than a criticism of it. For all its multi instrumentalists and lazy textures, the album lacks the craftsmanship and intelligence that makes an album more than just background music for everything it stands against.

Standout tracks – Ready to Start, Month of May