Album Review

Jason Turner
For an artist that sings so much about growing up and suburban life, it’s surprisingly difficult to imagine what Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler’s childhood must have really been like. Is it possible it was as tumultuous and dramatic as his lyrics would lead us to believe? Or was he actually playing flashlight tag, riding bikes and eating Push Pops like the rest of us?

Chances are Butler is taking at least some artistic license with his subject matter, but who cares. In addition to being more relevant than an anthropologist’s time capsule and more entertaining than the Wonder Years, Arcade Fire’s relentless examination of youth and suburban culture is clever, theatrical and undeniably Tweetable.

On their most recent album, “The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire return to the role of antagonist, challenging the status quo and prodding suburban ideals, like an unsupervised adolescent poking a hornet’s nest with a tree branch. The result is a thought-provoking, complete album, with some of the slickest production and arrangements you’ll hear this year.

“The Suburbs” is beyond great, and trying to pick out the best tracks is like trying to decide who the ‘hot girls’ are in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. But the songs on this record are nothing if not distinct and any of them would make a sparkling addition to your indie-rock collection.

The album’s first singles, “Ready to Start” and “The Suburbs” are instant indie classics. The title track is a mid-tempo jam built around saloon-style piano that builds to a punchy chorus, and culminates with a haunting outro, while the danceable “Ready to Start” races like doped-up cyclist, grooving toward an intense, guitar-driven climax.

An onomatopoeia lover’s dream, “Rococo” is a strikingly original and heavy-handed track about college kids, not to be outdone by the epic and explosive “Suburban War,” the riff-heavy “Deep Blue,” or the album’s spectacular near conclusion, “Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains,” which sounds like a Blondie track with a modern twist and some timely upgrades.

Arcade Fire is one of the best bands making music right now, and if you need proof, just pick up a copy of “The Suburbs.”