There will be a lot of talk about the new ARCADE FIRE record "The Suburbs". It is without a doubt one of the most hotly anticipated records of the year both critically and commercially. Their first two records were both musical masterpieces that have had people falling all over lead singer and principal songwriter Win Butler compared to a modern day Dylan and Springsteen. His command of lyrics and his ability to comment on the human condition have placed him in this rarefied air. Like Springsteen, Butler details life for the normal people highlighting the trials and tribulations of the everyman and his struggles to get ahead or merely survive. However, the music is more varied and nuanced than the Boss. Rather than bludgeoning you with big guitars and sax solos, Arcade Fire use a multi-instrumental approach that highlights crafted guitar and bass work with additional flourishes of other instruments.
With their newest album, the band takes on life in modern day Suburbia. "The Suburbs" as an album aims to show the state of life outside of the big city for a typical nuclear family. Now in most people's mind the notion of the post cold war nuclear family is already antiquated but Butler's point throughout the record is that it's still there, just hidden from view. "Modern Man" takes us into the mind of the husband/dad figure and his concerns about where his life is and where it's going. "City With No Children" echoes lost opportunities and laments the author's "private prison".
The album turns both sonically and lyrically with the two part "Half Light" that showcases Regine Chassagne's contribution as lead singer. There is also a sonic shift as the second "Half Light" echoes shades of electronic music that is eerily 80's in sound. The other two part song "The Sprawl" ends the record with the notion that modern society is full of interconnecting lives that really don't connect at all.
"The Suburbs" is musical heavy lifting. It takes several listens to warm to it and get inside the meaning of the record. While on the surface it's not as dark as "Neon Bible" and has less of a blues feel than that masterwork, it becomes a deeper record over time. I have little doubt it will be a top record for the year on most best of lists. And it deserves it.
**The other option for posting was the title track but to be honest it's my least favorite song on the album so you get this driving rock song instead. Enjoy!!