Arcade Fire fails to bring the heat

Local band falls short of impressing fans

I fell in love with Arcade Fire with the release of their groundbreaking album Funeral and had my devotion reignited with Neon Bible. I don’t believe there is much chance or much point in trying to accomplish what previous albums did. According to the interviews given upon the release of this new single, it seems the band agrees with me.

Their new singles that were leaked onto the Internet include the album’s namesake track “The Suburbs” and the rock-driven, painfully repetitive “Month of May.” Unfortunately, these songs don’t come close to the brilliant debut album that fans all over the world fell in love with.

It is, of course, important to experiment and to try new things, to move in different stylistic directions, but with the redundant simplicity of “The Suburbs” and “Month of May,” it doesn’t seem like experimentation was really the goal.

“The Suburbs” has a typically catchy pop sound with its astoundingly repetitive arrangement. The strings we all know and love are in there somewhere, but they aren’t nearly as impressive as tracks on previous records, and throughout the songs they are either nonexistent or go unnoticed beneath the tedious piano, guitar and bass tracks. There isn’t a build-up or climax to be found, another aural artifact for which the group is highly regarded, nor is there deviation from the basic music arrangement.

Upon hearing the first minute of the song “Month of May”, which opens with the lyrics “Month of May, month of May / gonna make a record in the month of May,” I thought it was a spoof recorded to promote the new album. As the song continued on, though, with the dreary, distorted hammering of power chords, I realized it was indeed a full-length song and that it was intended for the album. The lyrics on this track are hackneyed in a manner that seems entirely uncharacteristic of Arcade Fire.

One cannot help but notice a steep difference in this new effort, which pales in comparison to previous releases whose lyrics were impassioned and contained poignant, inspired imagery.
“The Suburbs” is enjoyable albeit redundant and, at some points, monotonous with its musical arrangements (which is, again, extremely unlike them), but I’m still having a hard time believing that “Month of May” is sincerely meant as a follow-up to their last two outstanding efforts.

Admittedly, their singles are almost never the best songs on the album, as is true with many bands. It is also often futile to try to single out one or two tracks off of their albums as each song typically has something unique to offer, and they tend to function to their fullest potential when the album is heard in its entirety. However, all of the band’s singles thus far have been quite adequate gauges of the quality and mood of the rest of the album. So, if these singles are any indication, I’m curious–though not so optimistic–as to how the rest of the album will come out.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.