Sunday, 19 December 2010

Moments of 2010: Relief Gives Way To Delight

It might be the skew of the media, for it is a famous skewer of personality, but I've always got the impression that Win Butler's a bit of a sneery, high-minded type of fellow, that he's someone who looks down on anyone he gets chance to. I don't know what formed this opinion, but listening to the lyrics of Rococo, as he declaims 'the modern kids' for being 'so wild, yet they are so tame', it's hard to find him any less anyone. What, the youth aren't rebellious any more? I hope he's not trying to be John Lydon or something – we all know what happened to John Lydon, don't we? That's right, he ended up gurning on TV, looking like a cunt and selling fucking butter. (As opposed to before, when he was gurning on TV, looking like a cunt and selling an overrated anarchist ideal.)

A chump selling butter. Wish I could claim credit for this graffiti, but google image search says it's via

Which is a roundabout way of saying that while Rococo's lyrics might be loathsome, they're pretty much the only thing wrong with Arcade Fire's latest album, The Suburbs, of which the relief of going “oh phew, it's good” gives way to the delight of “fuck, it's amazing”, and which is definitely a moment of the year.

There's always this fear with successful bands who essentially get their rep on the basis of an oustanding debut album that they'll just produce diminishing returns that, while they might sell better, are painfully unsatisfying to the fan who fell in love with the debut. Coldplay are the example that spring instantly to mind for me, I'll defend Parachutes to the hilt but weep tears of despair over Viva La Vida. And yeah, after Neon Bible filled me with feelings of “well yeah, it's quite good, but...”, I figured Arcade Fire'd go the same way.

WRONG! And shut up.

I think my first feeling, upon hearing the first few seconds of The Suburbs, was relief. Most specifically, the “phew, this sounds a bit crisp and clean, thank God they've ditched that slightly muffled, arch timbre that Neon Bible had”. And yeah, it's true, for the most part The Suburbs' main strength is that it's clear – it gets across the point of Win Butler's lyrics, and of the band's music. One issue I had with Neon Bible was it just seemed a bit too allegorical, like it was all cloaked in metaphor upon metaphor, and with the music that little bit fuzzed, like a band who're tentatively experimenting with the 'shoegaze' effect on a guitar pedal, it just seemed a little exclusive.

And the relief continues, when you realise they can still write barnstormers of songs – the opener creeps up on you over a few listens, but “Ready to Start” was there straight away, and it was the kind of statement-of-intent which littered Funeral, and which made it such a bombastic treat too. And this is probably why I instantly warmed to it – it wasn't that it had an instant effect on me (though “Ready to Start” did), it was that I could tell it was going to really grow on me. That sounds odd, doesn't it? Hell, music's all about feelings, isn't it? And I admit it baffles me, but a lot of my favourite albums I didn't fall in love with straight away, but I could tell I was going to, like the first time you saw Clemence Poesy in the fourth Harry Potter film. Or when you go to your first football match; win or lose it kind of grips you enough to want to return, but the love, the loserish fascination, that comes later.

It came later with The Suburbs for me, too. This entry's called Relief gives way to Delight, and sure enough that's how I feel listening to this album now. There's just so many treats on this album. Some, like the obvious “Sprawl II” (that it seems like everyone – accurately – has compared to “Heart of Glass”), grab you by the shoulders and shake you bodily every time you listen. Some, like the arpeggio-driven “Suburban War” only kind of hit you half way through the song each time, and wash over you in floods. It's probably my favourite album of the year. And it's such a delight to realise that this isn't a band victim to diminishing returns. Yes, it could've done with being trimmed a little, as it is it's a little overambitious and – ha – sprawling, but that's part of the charm. There's enough fantastic songs here to keep anyone happy. But you know that, don't you? This album's sold by the bucketload. Arcade Fire have sold out the O2 multiple nights in a row as far as I'm aware. They're a massive band, but between this and Funeral they massively deserve it. And that's why the relief and delight of this album's quality, and the glee seeing how megagigantic they've become is one of my moments of the year.

Arcade Fire? The Arcade Fire? One of those two? Yeah.

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