A recent obsession among my travelling companions and I has been this essential coming of age/teenage angst ridden album. The Fire are part of my long term loving collection, having seen them play live in Massachusetts in 2014. “Reflektor” was a daring foray into a more intense and epic style, including some slightly more political topics. Seeing them live was a revolutionary life experience (spot the deep and mature traveller), and one that I heartily recommend. Magical visuals and punky sass galore with a seemingly endless capacity of extra people on stage. At the end a group of people with giant bobble heads of various controversial politicians entered stage left, to the raucous applause of the packed stadium. Win Butler creates crazy yet strangely introverted vibes, whilst the charming Regine Butler moves like a charmed snake on LSD, crooning intensely to the funkadelic disco backing.
“The Suburbs” is in a different plane though. It’s a nostalgic lament to the dying breed of bored children making mountains out of the molehills of their youth. Contrary to the foreshadowing of technological doom in “Reflektor”, “The Suburbs” seems to dwell more on the simple realities of life as a youth whose inner world doesn’t reflect the mundanity of the world outside.
The opening track, which shares the albums name, sets the scene for a “suburban war”. I lurve this concept and its apocalyptic imagery. It seems to suggest that there are things worth fighting wars over sheltering in the guise of mundane suburban life. The backing is simple and hardly changes which makes the whole thing strangely haunting.
“The business men drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would”. What a perfect opening line to a rebellious and hormonally pent up song. Win works his weird and wonderful magic with “Ready To Start”, which is insightfully moody and makes you want to grow your hair long and shake it around. I can picture it as the intense background to a passionate argument over the amount of time you spend in your room writing poetry and sifting through edgy Polaroids you took the night before.
“Modern Man” is an old classic. The infectious drum beat and simple guitar riff combine elegantly to accompany the plaintive lyrics. Another corker is “Sprawl II” in which Regine gets to enchant us with her dreamy vocals. Weird synths and a characteristically continuous riff and such erudite wisdom as: “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small that we can never get away from the sprawl”. C’est magnifique.
“City With No Children” is perfect for a sunny drive in your parents car. “Month of May” could be your band’s first cover to be rehearsed in your parents garage to the annoyance of your neighbours. “Half Light” could be the accompaniment to a rooftop viewing of the stars with your high school sweetheart. “We Used To Wait” has the nostalgic and regretful quality that would make you cry over your old diaries. This and so much more could be yours- all in one fantastical album.
“The Suburbs” is the voice of the outsider: of the slightly odd kid in the back of your class that no one ever speaks to but who secretly loves disco music and existential brooding, the weird girl with dandruff from the breakfast club, of a young Camus or the lonely old man in your town. Arcade Fire are the halloweeners that dress up in ball gowns and scary masks and fling toilet paper all over the school gym. They would stick up for you in front of the cigarette smoking school bully and go with you to prom on the condition that you spike the punch and mock the popular kids. In short, our kind of losers.