Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well, I Might As Well Do Something

I've been drinking again. Read what I think about things.

Arcade Fire
The Suburbs (2010)
Rating: 9.0 (out of 10)

I wish I was in Arcade Fire. If you watch any of the band's live performances, whether they be on TV or in person, you'll feel inspired. Quite frankly, they give a shit. You might think they're overrated, you might think they're too safe, you might think they're whatever. Thing is, if you watch them play any of their songs you're going to realize that this is a band that believes in what they're doing.

Three albums into their career, Arcade Fire are untouchable. As good as Neon Bible was, its political bent seemed a bit immature and short-sighted at times. This is a band that works best when examining the rot that incapacitates us in everyday life, and that's the sort of thing they focus on in The Suburbs.

Let's start with the opening track, a lock-step piano number named after the album itself. Good luck getting it out of your head. And if you're moving forward with your life, if your starting to become an adult with a capital A, you're going to pick up on some other things. Win Butler's pleas to have a daughter before he's too old to show her joy, his desire to let others feel the ephemeral sensations he's barely clinging on to, those are feelings I can't help but admire. Putting this sort of shit into words is nearly impossible, but I'll be damned if this dude doesn't figure out a way.

And fuck, "Ready to Start" is a beast. That bass line dominates my brain day in and day out. The song sounds like it was made 20 years ago, but the themes resonate now. The energy behind it is incredible. "Month of May" is the same way, an effort by a band specializing in the grandiose to make a short, perfect pop song that people like me will lose their shit over. Guess what? Both attempts were unquestionably successful, and "Ready to Start" makes me sad, angry, and happy all at once.

If "Rococo" annoys you at first (it did me), let its climax take you over. If "Empty Room" channels Bowie, you shouldn't care. If "City With No Children" makes you a little bid sad, you're going to have to come to terms with that. "Deep Blue" is gorgeous, "We Used to Wait" is appropriately jaunty, and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" is goddamned perfect. This record is meant as a statement, as a collective unit of songs that lets us know that life isn't ever going to be a picnic. We're all going to be fighting through this shit for as long as we exist. If The Suburbs is anything, and it is, it's the sound of growing up and realizing the damning truths that haunt all of us every single day.

Neon Bible was a really good record, one of my favorite of the past decade. Funeral, it's even better. The reason The Suburbs leans closer in excellence to Funeral than Neon Bible is its reliance on personal narratives, its dependence on the bullshit we all go through every single day. I'm 25 years old now, and I'm married. I lost my father in May. I've got gray hair and I'm getting increasingly chubby. I have debt, and a lot of the time I think my family resents me. It's because of all this, my aging, my fears, my perspective, that I am able to appreciate The Suburbs even more than I normally would. Yeah, this record sounds great, but if you listen to what Win Butler has to say and you're anywhere near the same position I am, you're going to get an added bonus.

Funeral , all full of youthful idealism and excitement, it's the band's crowning achievement. But The Suburbs, this is a close enough second, an album so sad that it's confident. This is a record I will happily stand behind no matter what. This is a record I'm going to hold dear when I have children of my own, and I can't say that about most of the discs I listen to on a daily basis. For the third time, Arcade Fire have crafted one of the year's best.