Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

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Arcade Fire 

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

29th July 2010
At 22:18 GMT

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If you've read those "Greatest Albums of All-Time" articles which crop up every nanosecond, you'll likely notice 'Funeral' holding its ground while 'Neon Bible' slowly inches closer to the exclusion line every week.

Arcade Fire have never created an immediate, snap-judgement album. Just as 'Funeral' took months to unveil its true glory, so 'Neon Bible' took months until people finally admitted it was not as exceptional as they may have hoped: only very good.

Hence, 'The Suburbs' comes off as that moment when you notice that your five-year-old child has just spelled out "coruscation" with his playing bricks. Even in his infancy, you recognise the promise of genius. While you may not see the full scope of it right now, there is no doubt, it is coming, and it will be awe-inspiring.

The Canadians' third full-length takes a wholly different approach, adopting a more leisurely pace and not relying upon majestic set-pieces to sell itself. Sure, there are still moments which make you double-take (the final minute breakdown in 'Ready to Start' for instance, where the track descends into a immensely satisfying frenetic rhythm stripped of the comfort of the ensemble before striking up the band once more).

Some may be disappointed with the absence of past excesses in instrumentation. The strings are often relegated to the back-line with vocals and electronic elements taking most of the work-load. Offsetting this though is the band's regression to childhood for the subject of the album. Why force your opinions on others when you can regale them with narratively-strong tales of pre-pubescent wonder and hope. Describing the album, front-man Win Butler stated "We moved to the suburbs of Houston when we were young. Being a very young child, it's like going to Mars or something. The blast of hot air when you get off the plane at Houston." If that was the goal, then the result is success, with the same sense of anticipation for interstellar travel perfectly captured from moments which recall the build-up to those extolling the wonder of the launch.

Then we have examples like "Wasted Hours" which checks the box for porch-front composition. Typically not a mainstay of Canadian song-writing, due to the danger of becoming an icicle, but for concocting a pleasantly subdued tonal shift to 'The Suburbs' it can't be faulted.

No one can state for certainty, without the benefit of retrospective determinism, that this album will ascend to a god-like state of being in the collective-conscious. True, it mayn't have the same wow-factor of 'Funeral', but it is a blissfully sublime record which distils all of the best elements of the band and takes a measured and restrained approach to the whole album. Focus is on crafting a strong album rather than a few amazing songs.

To the patient, this will be more than acceptable.

Rating:  8 / 10

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