By Arcade Fire
Given their back catalog, it seems fair enough to hold high expectations of anything Arcade Fire release. 'Funeral' still holds its own in a list of the best debut albums of recent times, and 'Neon Bible' gives little to support to the age old concept of the "difficult second album". Three years later, the band have returned with 'The Suburbs,' and it's safe to say they've got a lot to live up to.
It doesn't start promisingly. The title track ambles along pleasantly enough, but it never explodes like you'd expect. It appears to be there to set the scene, it focuses more on the lyrics than the music, outlining the context of suburban life that the rest of the album focuses on. You would be forgiven for finding it slightly dull, unfortunately an adjective that can be applied to more than just the opener on this record.
Whilst 'Ready To Start' is fantastically upbeat, 'Modern Man' manages to kill the mood immediately afterwards, and this seems to be the pattern for the rest of the record. Too many tracks seem to just float along, never really going anywhere. Nothing bad, just lacking the beautiful inspiration Win Butler & Co are usually capable of. 'City With No Children' and 'Month Of May', despite being much better in the context of the album, are prime examples of this.
Saying that, when it's good it's as stunning as you'd expect. 'Suburban War' is as gloriously dark and brooding as ever, and the electro bass of 'Half Light II (No Celebration)' showcases a new dimension to the band. The record is as good as saved by the the glorious 'Sprawl' (parts 1 & 2 together), Win's vocals contrast perfectly with R?ne's as organ fades into wonderfully moving, almost dancey, synth.
'The Suburbs' shows all the signs of a band just trying to fit just that little bit too much in, and given it's hour length it's easy enough to argue that it wouldn't have suffered from a few cuts. The lyrical focus of growing up and escaping is one that has been trodden many a time, and far better in my personal opinion. It lacks the emotional depth of their previous efforts, especially when compared to their heart-wrenching debut. There's clearly brilliance here, it's Arcade Fire after all, but a few too many of the tracks fade into obscurity for this to be rated anywhere near as highly as their previous records.