I love Arcade Fire a lot. I listen to them and voraciously devour everything they put out. This includes music, videos, and even shoddily shot fan videos on YouTube. After listening to their latest The Suburbs four separate times and after reading tons of glowing reviews, however, I am prepared to say that I just don’t think it is good enough.
It seems that Arcade Fire has such an impressive body of work that they are now getting the Radiohead treatment, where everything they put out is praised. Considering the source, it is infallible and unquestionably genius. Much like Radiohead did with The Bends and OK Computer, Arcade Fire set the bar awfully high for themselves. Still, that is the blessed and cursed bed they made for themselves.
Conceptually, I am sure The Suburbs works on paper. I also haven’t done (nor will I do) an exhaustive study of the lyrical content. At the end of the day, for me, the music had better grab me. Unfortunately, this time it sounds like a collection of B-sides without a hit (by Arcade Fire’s eclectic standards for the word “hit”). The schizophrenic song sections are missing. The incredible highs and lows aren’t there. Even when it sounds like they are trying to be rambunctious on songs like “Empty Room,” it somehow comes off kind of boring and hypnotic without ever hooking you.
I haven’t heard it yet, but someone will assuredly defend the album because it is “just like suburbia and you don’t get it.” I know. Trust me. I get it. At the end of the day, even if suburbia is rife with strip malls, cookie-cutter homes, clone-like automobiles and matching lifestyles, The Suburbs lacks the highs, lows, and general excitement that I have come to expect from Arcade Fire. I still love the band. I will continue to listen to the album for a while to see if maybe my initial impressions are wrong. At this point though, I am calling The Suburbs a bust by the lofty standards previously set by the band.