Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Ugens Sang: Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

I’ve never really liked Arcade Fire.

Wait! Don’t run away! Let me qualify that.

I respect them plenty, and I think some of their songs – Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out), Neon Bible – are amazing and justifiably revered. But I never really got why people loved this band so much. I listened closely to both their albums, and saw their set at the Big Day Out in 2008. They’re talented and interesting artists, but I never really connected with the material. Being the shameless indie hipster that I am, it’s kind of a given that you’re an Arcade Fire fan in the (online and real world) communities I move in.

Their most recent album, The Suburbs, spoke to me on an emotional level, being an album about the relationship 20- and 30-something kids (because don’t we all consider ourselves kids, no matter how far into adulthood we seem to accidentally stumble?) have with their hometowns. Leaving and returning, loving and hating: it’s a struggle I can relate to as I try to figure out my place in the world (quite literally, as I return from a year of globe-trotting). As the unfairly-maligned Pitchfork said, the album

“focuses on this quiet desperation borne of compounding the pain of wasting your time as an adult by romanticizing the wasted time of your youth…it’s a sad reminder that giving up your dreams for a reliable job that pays your way and corrodes your soul isn’t even a reliable option anymore. Soul-sucking work was at least once a dependably secure and profitable enterprise. Now what do we do?”

What do we do, indeed? I don’t know. It’s an album with no answers, only questions, and the penultimate track kicked me in the guts: “we run away / but we don’t know why”. (And speaking of running, I’m sure y’all saw their totally amazing video clip/art project for lead single The Wilderness Downtown.)

But themese, schmemes: this all counts for diddly-squat if the music’s no good. And it’s great. From a band given to grand pronouncements who thinks a church organ is a great addition to an album comes this bubbly little electro-pop number. Like all the best pop songs, there’s a sadness and regret lingering beneath the surface, but goddamn, isn’t that surface lovely?

And like a mirror / the city lights shine / They’re screaming at us “We don’t need your kind” / Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small / That we can never get away from the sprawl

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2 Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more!

    I saw them at Roskilde a few years back and was pretty underwhelmed. Like you I really wanted to like them, but neither their messy hippie-choir style performance nor their music spoke to me, although I liked their lyrics.

    This has completely changed with this album. I loved that they’ve kept it simple: not too many different instruments muddled together, clearer and more intense vocals + I love their move towards electro, especially Sprawl II, which kinda reminds me of The Knife.

    We’re going to see them in O2 in December and am starting to really look forward to it

    • liamliamliam says:

      I’m glad you feel similarly – most people look at me weirdly when I say I’m not too fussed about them. Especially in regards to Funeral – that seems to be like the Holy Bible of indie music this decade!

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