BONUS H8r @$$ review: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Three years have elapsed since the little people of the world have been given an opportunity to croon over the desperate dialogues and grandiose compositions of Arcade Fire. Luckily, the 2010 of songwriter Win Butler’s solipsistic existence gives us a whole new reason to admire the greatest songwriter of all time.

Unfortunately, this time it’s all about how much he hates you. 

While 2004’s Funeral is one of the most important indie records released in the last ten years, 2007’s Neon Bible didn’t receive the overwhelming praise that the band grew accustomed to. The Suburbs seems to be little more than a bitter response to an under-appreciative fan base who hasn’t built their shrine to Butler quite high enough.

The Suburbs may be the band’s most cohesive and fully realized album to date, but it is also the most antagonizing and the least relatable.

In a July interview with Spin Magazine, Butler referring to the new album as a “a mix of the Depeche Mode and Neil Young,” but it feels like he’d rather be Bruce Springsteen, singing Americana balladry to large crowds of unquestioning and adoring fans.

“The Suburbs” sings of Butler’s boredom, “Ready to Start” lets listeners know that he wants to sulk in his own self-misery, “Modern Man” says that his fans don’t understand him, and “Rococo” is about kids “using great big words that they don’t understand.” The first four tracks of the band’s latest self-proclaimed magnum opus hits one message, again and again—this is a one-man show and you weren’t invited.

While each of those four songs is beautifully composed and flows to the next with a brilliant delicacy, it’s hard to get past the self-pity. And it’s a shame, because The Suburbs had the potential to provide much-needed commentary about the ills of modern hipster culture. But instead, Butler’s hatred veers towards the personal, coming off as a bitter Blogspot rant than a valid criticism.

Sadly, the album is filled with great songs. The upbeat punk-like aggression of “Month of May” is new to the band’s arsenal, and songs like “City With No Children” and “Empty Room” sound like what fans hoped to hear on Neon Bible. Arcade Fire returned to to a form that they lacked on their sophomore release; The Suburbs may be their most sonically impressive album to date.

It’s just a shame that Butler wants to enjoy it alone.

Vox‘s Choices: “Month of May,” “City With No Children,” “Empty Room”

8 Comments on “BONUS H8r @$$ review: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

  1. Unfortunately I think you are concentrating more on the message than need be. I for one don’t pay much attention to the lyrics and I could care less. I am also sure that I have a lot of company. I discovered this group several years ago as I surfed iTunes and starting then (when they were fairly unknown) I have bought each and every album including The Suburbs. The heights this group takes me to are amazing as I find that they offer the most inspirational upbeat sound (forgetting the content of the lyrics) of any group I know. I have seen them in NY at Randall’s Island and at MSG on Wed. nite and on the webcast of their Thursday garden appearance on youtube. They are finally getting the recognition they deserve and irrespective of your comments about Butler he is all about putting out every bit of his energy to please. He always goes right into the crowd during his performances and at personal risk. Every Arcade Fire member is absolutely amazing as is the amount of energy each devotes to making their music the absolute best possible. The NYC audience for the concerts and for their recorded music is not an easy one to please and they were went wild for Arcade as they will for The Suburbs irrespective of whatever impression you have about Butler’s lyrics.

  2. James, are you sure it is Arcade Fire, and not you, that is responding with anger and hurt? Also, to say Neon Bible was anything other than one of the best reviewed albums of 2007 is simply dishonest.

    /fanboy out

  3. I’ve gotta say, you’re waaaaaay off the mark when it comes to the message of the album. It’s not made to alienate the audience, it’s an anthem to the wasted time shared by everyone, an album that acknowledges the mundane moments of our existence and by doing so makes us feel worthy of documentation as a whole.

    If you want to review music, you should try reading deeper into lyrics. Don’t take them at face value. Win Butler is one of the most facetious and playful lyricists of our time, and you’ve got to be able to see what he means on the deeper level.

  4. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Thanks for the comment!

  5. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a poor excuse for an album review.

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