It’s been three years since Neon Bible was released, the most groundbreaking work from the indie rock outfit Arcade Fire. The album was completely electrifying—with hauntingly beautiful riffs and the screams of frontman Win Butler—Montreal certainly made a name for itself on the international scene.
Arcade Fire’s third full-length The Suburbs is extremely different compared to their past work, but is an excellent new chapter for the group. Based on childhood tales of Win and his brother William (who plays keys) growing up in Houston, the songs on the album sound much like a lovelorn letter to naivety and suburban wonder, with just the right amount of tentative diffidence.
The title track opens up with a piano-heavy riff sounding somewhat inspired by Billy Joel, and sets the tone for a mellowed, completely honeyed Arcade Fire experience. With the exception of “Month of May,” which sounds like something Sonic Youth could have written, the album strays away from anything distorted or sonically experimental. One standout track, “Rococo,” is probably the best thing on the record. It’s got crescendo in all the right places, with Win delicately whispering the song’s title in a way that sends shivers right down the spine. With words like “Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids/ They will eat right out of your hand/ Using great big words that they don’t understand,” it’s pretty easy to conjure up this kind of imagery when the lyrical component is so universally understood.
For a group that seems like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, this album is seamless and lacks any kind of undeserved pretension. With BBC critic rightfully describing The Suburbs as their OK Computer, this is without a doubt their masterpiece.