By ERIK ZOTTNICK
It seems hard to make an album that reeks of existential despair sound so good, but Arcade Fire has done it again. “The Suburbs” is a blast of post-punk that sounds very good on the first listen and only gets better from there.
“In the suburbs I / I learned to drive / And you told me we’d never survive / Grab your mother’s keys, we’re leaving.” In this way, Arcade Fire opens the album with a perfect introduction that echoes the album’s sentiments pretty well.
“The Suburbs” is a little punkier than their 2007 album, “Neon Bible,” but the songs are no less catchy or ornate. It’s something of a concept album, but things don’t get too heavy or weighed down. There are sing-along choruses and intricate melodies strewn throughout. It’s all very tight and precise though; there aren’t many missteps on the album.
Everything is full of energy and singer Win Butler’s vocals are passionate throughout. There are orchestral sweeps and lush arrangements that help the music propel itself from being merely good to great.
“The Suburbs” is a very serious album with lyrics about the mundane and troubled aspects of suburban life that may dissuade some from listening to it.
However, it’s not all sad as some songs are hopeful, or even happy. Songs never become too maudlin or depressing, which can sometimes plague other bands. There’s both subtlety in the instruments and full bombast on display here.
Arcade Fire has always managed to keep an odd balance between extremes, and this album’s no exception. The instrumental work is dazzling, showing real musicians at their best. Things don’t sag in the songs, and the band sounds inspired and excited while remaining in complete control.
The standout tracks include “Month of May,” “Modern Man,” “Rococo,” and the oddly placed but excellent “Sprawl II.” It is a very strong showing, and let’s hope that Arcade Fire can continue its streak of making landmark albums.
4.5 out of 5 stars.