now the music divides us into tribes

Broken dreams, faded exteriors, and lost love abound on Arcade Fire’s latest release, The Suburbs. As a melancholic romantic, I should be much more into this album at first listen than I am. While there’s some knockout lyrical imagery and beautiful executions of theme, The Suburbs doesn’t have the immediate draw of past efforts Neon Bible and Funeral.

Title track “The Suburbs” kicks off the album, a thesis statement of former glory. A meandering, moody guitar slides through the song, slightly off, like a photograph showing the wear and age of time gone by. The 80s gloom-and-boom of “Ready to Start” is just dying to score the works of Bret Easton Ellis, and the sentiment is turned on its ear for the deceptively happy synthesizer and abandoned shopping malls giving “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” its subtitular name.

While “We Used to Wait” deserves an honorable mention, the only track to really wow me straight off is “Suburban War“. Though simple, there’s something ultimately real about the lyrics that chronicle growing up and bottoming out:

And now the music divides
Us into tribes
You grew your hair so I grew mine
They said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind
And my old friends, I can remember when
You cut your hair
We never saw you again
Now the cities we live in
Could be distant stars
And I search for you
In every passing car
“Suburban War” is the first and only song on the album to give me a visceral reaction, poking at the place in my gut where loss and nostalgia reside.
The Suburbs lacks the glory that tracks like “No Cars Go” lend their other releases, but like the suburbs and small towns of our youth it takes time and exploration to unearth the hidden gems and grow affinity for the less glamorous and exciting places we find ourselves in.

The Suburbs dropped 08.03.10.
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