The Arcade Fire
The Suburbs (Merge)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Aug. 6, 2010
The Arcade FireThe Suburbs (Merge)
Win Butler is no stranger to The Suburbs. The Arcade Fire co-founder and his multi-instrumentalist brother William grew up in Houston's The Woodlands, a master-planned community that serves as the metaphorical backdrop to the Montreal outfit's highly anticipated third LP. "I dreamt I drove home to Houston on a highway," reflects Butler in centerpiece "City With No Children," one of several references to the East Texas sprawl. He's still gazing into his rearview mirror as the chorus concludes, "A garden left for ruin by a millionaire/Inside of a private prison." The Arcade Fire began as escape artists, fleeing from such moments of shared discomfort and crimes unknown into childhood fantasies of heroic proportion. With The Suburbs, the baroque pop outfit attempts to reconcile its past and present – living with both "Suburban War" and critical acclaim ("Rococo") – casting the neighborhoods of 2004's Funeral in the afterglow of 2007 sequel Neon Bible. The resultant narrative drama marks the band's most conceptually complete work to date, landing somewhere between Bowie's Berlin and Springsteen's Asbury Park, especially in the vintage-electro anthem "Half Light II (No Celebration)" and the staggering urgency of "We Used To Wait." Régine Chassagne excels in her role of the desperate housewife in "Empty Room," which pairs racing strings against a Loveless guitar-symphony, and "Half Light I," a ghostly elegant duet with Wall of Sound orchestration. Butler matures from innocence (jagged, early standout "Ready To Start") to experience ("Modern Man") and back again, with unwavering intensity. Ultimately, there's no resolution to The Suburbs, only a requiem for the uncomfortably numb.
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