Following on from their 2007 sophomore effort ‘Neon Bible’ was never going to be too big a challenge for Arcade Fire; despite its accomplished musicianship and ambition, overall as an album it had a much more gloomy and macabre outlook in comparison to youthful exuberance of debut ‘Funeral’. But whilst this their third effort, the aptly named ‘The Suburbs’, marks a return to a much more welcoming and safer sound, has this come at a cost to their creativity?
Thankfully not. As you would expect there’s plenty of innovation from the always interesting Canadian seven piece. Title track ‘The Suburbs’ is a pleasant enough start, even if there is slight hint of the sinister throughout its jingly jangly melody. Followed by ‘Ready To Start’ and ‘Modern Man’ the album is soon in full swing, tempo fast but never too overwhelming. The former is reminiscent of ‘Keep The Car Running’, whilst the latter delicately balances a undeniable hook with an understated guitar melody.
Further on, ‘City With No Children’ shines, providing the album’s first big chorus, followed by the slightly pretentious, but worthy listens ‘Half Light I’ and ‘Half Light II (No Celebration).’ However it’s the double whammy of ‘Suburban War’ and ‘Month of the May’ that provide ‘The Suburbs’ most memorable moments; even if the latter does sound like a slightly watered down Queens of the Stone Age circa ‘Songs For The Deaf’.
Whilst ‘The Suburbs’ doesn’t quite reach the same heights or offer the same longevity as the still fresh ‘Funeral’, most will find it a welcome return after ‘Neon Bible’. However the album’s biggest flaw is easily its length; clocking in at over an hour is something less and less common in this now digital and low-attention span age. That said, it is by no means a bad effort, if a little bloated at the end. With Leeds and Reading slots due at the end of this month, Arcade Fire have plenty to choose from for what promise to be two of 2010’s best headline shows.