Quick Review (LP): The Suburbs by The Arcade Fire

arcade fire the suburbs The Arcade Fire
The Suburbs
Merge; 2010

My Rating: B+

Best Tracks: “The Suburbs”, “Ready to Start”, “City With No Children”, “Suburban War”, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Montains)”

I can’t make up my mind about this record. On one hand, it’s undeniably a strong album, but on the other hand, I want more than strong albums from The Arcade Fire. I want more like “Sprawl II (Mountain Beyond Mountains)” and less like “Month of May.” I want more Regine on vocals and less Win. I want more quiet and melodic and less overwrought bombast. If this band can make one of the greatest rock records of all time (Funeral), then it can make another one. All of this being said, there are some great tracks here, of which the title track and the aforementioned “Sprawl II” are the best and will probably both find their way onto my year end best tracks list. There is plenty of emotional resonance here but too much reliance on the wall of sound and some filler as well. The Arcade Fire is banging their head on the wall of sound at this point, and it is time for them to break out of it and find some greener pastures.

Pitchfork review
Paste review
Metacritic reviews
Band website

Suspending Judgment: Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”

I’m not quite sure what to make of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. I, like most everyone else, came to love the band for their incredible 2004 debut Funeral, and I stuck with Neon Bible long enough to realize that it’s actually a pretty decent album. But The Suburbs hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve heard it compared to London Calling in scope, but I’m not convinced.

I guess the most frustrating thing for me is that I feel like the band is stagnating in both sound and vision. While The Suburbs most definitely has some killer songs, I guess I was hoping for something more revolutionary and ambitious, something that would threaten to both alienate old fans and gain legions of new ones, a record we could really divide into camps over. Instead of going all Radiohead on us with a Kid A (and setting the tone for the decade to come), the band has delivered what, in my mind, is their X&Y. And by the way, I like Coldplay.

Anyway, here’s what I do like:

  • “The Suburbs” – Great lyrics – “I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before all this damage is done.”
  • “City With No Children In It” – Nifty sound. This is probably the most unique sounding track on the record, easily my favorite.
  • “Suburban War” – I love the stark, almost apocalyptic sound of this track. Very nice McGuinn-style guitar playing here.
  • “Sprawl II (Mountain Beyond Mountains)” – Makes a strong case that what this band needs more of is Regine on lead vocals. I thought the same thing when I heard Neon Bible‘s “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations.”

All in all, The Suburbs is a good, maybe even great third effort from The Arcade Fire. I just wish it was something I was breaking down doors to tell the uninitiated about.