The SuburbsAlbum |
Canadian collective retreat from epic grandeur.
It's either admirably self-aware or bitterly ironic that The Suburbs features two songs called "Sprawl I" and "Sprawl II" near its end: at 63 minutes plus, this album drones endlessly on, like the cookie-cutter housing developments its lyrics explore. Normally with Arcade Fire, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the Montreal-based collective seem to have deliberately stunted its artistic vision on their third album. Perhaps aware that 2007's Neon Bible had taken the whole epic grandeur thing about as far as it could go without tipping over into self-parody, singer-songwriter Win Butler and crew dial way back on the horns, strings, choral vocals and lashings of reverb that have defined their sound. Unfortunately, it turns out that when you take those things away from Arcade Fire, what's left is earnest but regrettably dull indie rock of the Band of Horses/My Morning Jacket variety. Lyrically, The Suburbs is the traditional rock dude's midlife crisis album, both reflecting on Butler's suburban Houston upbringing and (particularly on the sneering "Rococo" and "Month of May") turning a gimlet eye towards These Kids Today. Butler turned 30 a few months before the album's release, so he's right on schedule. There are enough flashes of the old Arcade Fire to keep The Suburbs from being a total failure, but in attempting to create their own version of Bruce Springsteen's The River, they've unfortunately come closer to Springsteen's Lucky Town.