By Quinton Saxby
Arcade Fire’s catapult to stardom after their formation in 2003 has been surprising but well deserved. With an EP and three albums, including The Suburbs, this once-indie band hailing from Montreal can hardly be called indie as of their new release. Their music is too accessible, and their popularity is too exponential, making them too large a phenomenon to earn the coveted “indie” title. Instead, Arcade Fire has managed to maintain their originality and musicality while still being well-produced and very, very popular.
This latest album finds this alternative/pop/rock band experimenting with counter-melodic strings, bombastic choruses and lyrics lamenting the fall of “modern man.” Clearly, Arcade Fire is not afraid to take chances.
The majority of songs on The Suburbs are a reflection on the moral and spiritual desolation of growing up in the archetypal middle-class suburban sprawl. The album functions as a whole because of its recurrent themes, such as waiting and lost chances, and although not quite a concept album, it maintains coherency and consistency.
Lyrically, the album creates a world of crumbling Brady Bunch houses, rebellious but impotent modern kids and long, aimless drives around town. When you add it all up, you have a crystal clear picture of a desolate, spiritually empty suburban community, with all its wandering punks and hipsters and airs of pretension that flood over into superficiality.
Musically, the band works with the tried and true formulas of their past experimentation, choosing to further develop the sound they pioneered on their first two albums. Like Arcade Fire’s sound before, The Suburbs relies on strings, reverb and unexpected harmonies to create a sound that is distinctly theirs. Their mainstream status seems to have developed because of strong, original songwriting that is also catchy enough to garner lots of attention.
And with the number of potential singles on this album, Arcade Fire’s popularity may continue to soar. Maybe they’re already at this point; if not, this album will surely bring them there.
The Suburbs is a remarkable album. Arcade Fire tackles explicitly the issue of what it means to be “modern,” while also writing superbly catchy hooks.
Arcade Fire on this third album takes up themes of modernity and suburban unhappiness while also producing a distinct, ambitious and honest style. No one can fault Arcade Fire for trying, and no one should fault them for succeeding. It seems that after all this waiting, they have finally arrived.
Quinton Saxby is a senior english major who was totally be in the front row at Cornell. Email him at email@example.com.