Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

Artist: Arcade Fire

Title: The Suburbs
Release date: August 3
Label: Merge

Here's something I did not know until after multiple listens to Arcade Fire's new record: The suburbs are not what they seem. 

Here I'd lived 40-plus years (including my first 18 years in the suburbs) thinking that suburbia provided an idyllic backdrop for living the good life and raising a family, away from dangerous, dirty, desperate cities.

I did not realize that you could be bored and disillusioned and feel enslaved by the suburban car culture and trapped by the contemptible predictability of suburbia's commercial and aesthetic sameness. I was truly unaware that living in the suburbs can breed a feeling of disconnection with what you once were in your youth. And speaking of suburban kids, I'd always thought they were the best and the brightest, resistant to ennui and able to reject life's temptations all while smile brightly and respecting authority. I was wrong about that, too. 

It's weird. You'd think that such themes would've been mined by now in the popular culture. What's wrong with our artists and writers and musicians that it took until 2010, nearly six decades after the advent of suburbia, for some forward-thinking rock stars (Canadians, no less) to pull back the bedsheets to reveal the uncomfortable wet spot we've all been sleeping in since the 1950s?

So, despite being bludgeoned for an hour with all this bad news about the best place in the whole wide world, I have to agree with what is increasingly become a popular sentiment: Arcade Fire is good. In fact, is there a better act at walking the line between indie cred and mainstream accessibility? I can't think of one. It's pretty obvious that these guys and gals aspire to be the perfect of amalgamation (this, plying stadium-ready intimacy) of U2, Springsteen, and Radiohead. Thematic tediousness and lyrical inconsistencies aside, I'd say they're almost there.

Best song: "Month of May," because I didn't know a band like AF had it in 'em.
Rotation: Medium
Deja vu: Earnest earnestness
I'd rather listen to (or watch): Over the Edge, the best movie about the suburbs.
Grade: B

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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