The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Bemoaning suburb-induced disenchantment is hardly new territory: the routine monotony, the hopelessness, the lover who makes the boredom bearable. Despite treading on such worn ground, the sheer grandiosity of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is enough to shed new light on an overdone theme.

A foreboding tension builds throughout the album, starting on “The Suburbs,” a song underscored by the keys of a ghost town player piano. The song’s lyrics are the most poignant of the whole album, despite being the scene-setting number. The frivolousness of suburbia is captured beautifully when front man Win Butler opines:

When all of the walls that they built in the ’70s finally fall, and when all of the houses they built in the ’70s finally fall, meant nothing at all. Meant nothing at all, it meant nothing.

In typical Arcade Fire style, bleakness is counterbalanced by the group’s signature lush layering of sounds and Butler’s vocal bravado. The instrumentals here aren’t varied, but they provide a motif that keeps the album cohesive and focused.

The Suburbs falters a bit in the middle: A lack of urgency abounds, along with a failure to give importance to the lyrics. It is an interesting choice that “Rococo,” a track that seems to be attacking hipster mentality, does so by evoking the image of Rococo, a 18th century French art style specializing in the ornate on elaborate scale. While it’s a fun little comparison to kick around in your head, the song itself doesn’t come close to matching its metaphoric ambition. Continue reading


Where The Messengers Meet – Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

After fully rocking out on their self-titled debut, the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band return with an abstract and plodding follow-up. The drastic stylistic change would seem like a bad idea for most artists, but MSHVB may have just found its niche.

Where the Messengers Meet swoons with a melancholy whimsy, like a rainy day in the Hundred-Acre Wood. Instead of the blistering guitar leads and peppy drumming of the last album, the instrumentals on songs like “Bitter Cold” echo as if they’re cascading off the walls of a gaping Gothic cathedral. (Understated organ parts help nurture this vibe.) Continue reading

Osheaga Recap From Newshouse

Last weekend I trekked up to Montreal for a day at the Osheaga Festival. I wrote it up for the Newshouse at Syracuse.

Check it out.

—In addition, I had the following comments about the Canadians and their fascinating festival habits which had to be cut. So I’ll share them here.—

Their concert going customs of the Canadian seem appropriately foreign to my American sensibilities. For example, I was shocked to find that Osheaga patrons give personal bubbles to those huddled in front of the main stage. Instead of being crammed and stacked person on person, there’s a small radius to move in. This was simply baffling.

Beer venders even went into the crowd, all the way up to the front, and sold refreshments all day. Can anybody possibly imagine this happening at a Coachella or Sasquatch! where the fans in front of the stage are essentially stacked on top of one another? As an American festival vet this idea is certifiably insane to me, but I like it. It’s nice to be able to see music and without becoming intimately familiar with the body odor of the guy next to you.

There was, however, one Canadian girl who did all she could to ruin the Arcade Fire’s set for me. Look – people – if you are tone deaf, don’t sing along. Worse yet, if you can’t sing in time (so all your words drag on too long), don’t sing in time. If you combine these two horrible flaws, DON’T FUCKING SING ALONG! You’re ruining it for the rest of us. I hate you, whoever you are.

The rest of the Canadians – we cool.