Posted from The Citrus Report
Regardless of your feelings about suburbia and the offensive nature of the words “the suburbs,” placed next to each other in a sentence has come to symbolize, we can’t help but feel nostalgia when we think of growing up amongst the “mountains beyond mountains” of track homes, golf courses, and short white tennis shorts on Saturday mornings. Nostalgia doesn’t neccesarily mean we want to go back to high school, or play football in our neighborhood cul-de-sac, and try and find some culture in the nearest “big” city before curfew drew us back to the perfectly hand-pressed lawns and gardens.
Memories of trying to discover culture, art, and new THINGS that were deemed foreign is a feeling that is hard to recreate, and that is where we are coming from here. When you grow up in the suburbs, or at least the particular suburb we grew up in, life was easy, but not always illuminating. You had to go discover real moments of culture, you had to seek out danger, you had to get in that car and try and find that used book written by an obscure European writer, album by that British band, or to find a less homogeneous group of people. It was thrilling to leave the suburbs, and then to come back and compare it to your situation. It was how you grew up, stayed sane, and had memories you cherish today. You remember being 18 and hungover on a Sunday morning listening to “Pet Sounds,” or getting high and driving for hours and hours listening to that one album that “changed” your perspective. Getting over it all was part of why you remember it.
That is where we are at with the Arcade Fire’s 3rd LP, The Suburbs. Kids who live there now, or even grown-ups who grew up in the suburbs, only to move to the city for a few years and move back to that comfort, probably won’t get that visceral feeling listening to this. This is the music that stands outside of being in your childhood, outside of the actual suburbs, of looking back at any particular memory. Its the music that surrounds the feeling of being nostalgic for something you didn’t actually like, the soundtrack of good moments that can only be written in hindsight.
A lot of people will say that this album is melodramatic and simplistic toward suburban life, and that the thoughts and emotions evoked are retreads of previous films, music, and art. But we don’t this is a political statement per se, rather a recreation of a past written by people who no longer live, or will ever live, in the suburbs again. It is like saying an ultimate goodbye to an entire generation of suburban kids who either decide to move back or leave it all behind. The Arcade Fire seem to be saying, this made us who we are, these feelings led us to create the art we created, it isn’t bad, it isn’t good, lessons were learned, some of those times were so simple and great, and some of those memories hurt to this day. And we think most of us can relate.
The highlights? “Ready to Start” and “Sprawl Ii (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” stood out for us initially, but now most of the album has seeped in on our 5th listen. “Modern Man,” “Empty Room,” and “Half Light Ii (No Celebration)” have grown on us, and a lot of the songs just sort of pass, almost intentionally… as if looking out the back of your parents car on a Sunday drive to your aunt and uncles house. You remember the signs, each house, but you don’t ever want to stop and take it all in.
We feel like a lot of people will give this album an A+, and give Arcade Fire keys to indie kingdom. That seems appropriate on some level, but more so, we think this is an interesting concept album in a world of non-albums. Only a few bands can do that in this day and age, make you stop and listen to 16 (!) songs in order, start to finish, and actually think about intentions. And if that is Arcade Fire’s lasting legacy, then that is enough to look forward to album #4.
The Suburbs: 4/5