Arcade Fire rocks with riffs pulled from the ’80s

Arcade Fire Playing a show.

Joel Dameron

Staff Writer

Bouncy retro guitars, groovy bass rhythms and Beatles-esque chord progressions disturb the placid landscape of “The Suburbs,” the 2010 concept album by Canadian Indie rockers Arcade Fire. Armed with catchy choruses and eerie ’80s pop synthesizers, the great northerners take suburbia by storm. My wife made me listen to this band. Sadly I have been a little too preoccupied with them ever since. After seeing the album hit No. 1 on the charts, I decided that I had to give it a brief review. I picked up the album from Limewi…uh…er…the record store and gave it the standard headphones-only listen. The following is my analysis. The first song titled “The Suburbs” instantly hits you, pulsing with its hooky bouncing piano and guitar in an intensely happy chord progression. This was the first big single from the album, and it is easy to see why. Lead singer Win Butler’s voice adds a certain nostalgic quality to the catchiness of the song. The innocence of his voice almost seems to take you back to childhood in one sweeping awkward moment. The song “Rococo” is also a great track. It features one of the many Beatles-esque chord progressions. The instrument selection achieves this more than anything. There is an acoustic guitar, a synthesizer, a high pitched strings section (which have a Sgt. Pepper-Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! type feel to it) and what sounds like a harpsichord. The incorporation of all kinds of instruments is one of the things I absolutely love about this album. The next song I found particularly interesting was “Half Light II (No Celebration),” which seems to be the oddest song on the album. It has a galloping rhythm that even stops at one point and heavy synth keyboards doused with splashes of surf-style guitar leads. The vocals have a desperateness that never quite lets the listener go. “One, two, three, four” counts off the grungy garage rock style guitars and quick old school punk-style drums of “Month of May.” This song sounds like you took The Queens of the Stone Age, Blondie and The Sex Pistols and mixed them together in a blender. It is short, brutal and sweet, and I love it. “Deep Blue” is my absolute favorite song on the whole album. There is not one thing wrong with any part of it. I shivered when the piano and synth kicked in after 25 seconds and then shivered again when the higher synth kicked in at 1:14. The solo at 2:40 is utter orgasmicity. Is that a word? Moving on. The lurking creepiness in the guitar, synth and bass lines of “Sprawl (Flatland)” deserve an honorable mention, as well as the rhythmic bounce and female vocals in the following track, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” Lyrically the album does quite well at sticking to its concept, the story of a group of kids growing up in an early ’80s suburb. It manages to do this without boring the listener, which I think is one of the reasons why it is doing so well. The song “City with No Children” seems to have the most powerful set of lyrics on the album. In the excerpt below you can see the issues of abandonment and bitterness caused by the main character’s lack of understanding of the world going on around him. This is a feeling that I think we all experience at some point as we grow up.

“The summer that I broke my arm

I waited for your letter

I have no feeling for you now

Now that I know you better

I wish that I could have loved you then

Before our age was through

And before a world war does with us whatever it will do…

…I feel like I’ve been living in

A city with no children in it

A garden left for ruin by a billionaire inside of a private prison”

Overall the album is more than decent. A lot of the bands these days do not tend to have a large amount of talent. It is nice to see a band that does. It is pretty amazing when more than half the songs on an album are bearable beyond one listen. With this album almost all of them are. In spite of this I have decided to give “The Suburbs” 3 1/2 stars. Sorry guys. Is it better than any Miley Cyrus album out to date? Absolutely. Is it as good as “Never Mind the Bollocks” or “London Calling”? Absolutely not. “The Suburbs” can easily fit into the top 10 for the year, but that is about as far as it goes. Fantastic job though.   Until we rock again, keep listening.

Photo from captainsdead.com