It’s clear from the very direct and very forceful explosion in “Suburban War” that there is no shying away from the torrid subject. You’d almost be mistaken for assuming it was another song with just how crystal clear the breaking point is. And in many ways, after explaining the rudimentary movements of our lives (jumping over the fence to run away from her, growing your hair simply because you want to) in detailing what exactly these suburbs are, there would be nowhere else to turn but battle.
The funny thing is that as much as Arcade Fire aimed The Suburbs around being about the wide open fields we roam through, it still feels like returning home to your roots. On “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” the band delivers what is easily, the birth-child of synth-driven 80s music with their own personal touch. It’s a poppy gem that is driven by beautiful female vocals and a flourishing synthesizer, and with added layers and instrumentation, it very succinctly amazes. I don’t nearly think that Arcade Fire expected it to be so close to perfection – because it is – but I’m sure they’ll gladly accept all of the magical moments they’ve sublimely created on The Suburbs.
Win Butler sounds eerily close to the accented jibe of David Byrne and something like Wasted Hours’s swaying only adds to it all. The image of staring out the window while your entire summer melts away definitely hits home and Butler paints an entire village with a few words on the suburbs. Ultimately, jaded and frustrated, he sings out “Wishing you were anywhere but here,” into a lonesome melancholy drive down the gray street. It’s like the same downtrodden street you travel on in the opening title track: chugging along, but with not much hope in mind.
These sharp contrasts and parallels are interspersed onto the album like the grace of an artist working on his most cherished piece. You start to notice that the town is being discussed on every single song, re-telling various days through the viewpoint of a different person. But where other artists and bands are filling their albums with ten, neat and tidy tracks, of truly great music, The Suburbs is packed with an hour long of tremendous music. They’ve poured their entire heart into this album; every bit of terrain, of green grass and shrubs, are all covered with an immense amount of energy. Its length, its dimension, its dissention, its structure, its theme, its tone; everything Arcade Fire set out to do when they ‘wanted to make a record in May’ has been delivered – in fact, it’s all coming up rainbows.
Weaving stories and lines about the stories of broken souls, in between the twirling of a driving guitar, strings and stomping drums? The gripping reality hits even harder with lines like, “I want a daughter while I’m still young…I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before all this damage is done…” These stirring moments of poignancy are everywhere and through all sixteen songs (check out the amazing midway outpour at “Month of May”), they spin a remarkable story.
I couldn’t even really pinpoint what it is that makes it all the more special, it just feels pointless. I guess it’d probably have a lot to do with how powerfully all of their influences come together (everything from Springsteen, to Young, to Stipe is felt and strongly at that), or how intimate it all sounds while maintaining an impeccable creativeness, or even that it’s exceptional fine art. But whatever it is, The Suburbs is nothing short of extraordinary; it’s Arcade Fire’s moment of clarity where everyone can stop and take notice because in the most frank of terms, this is also nothing short of a masterpiece.