ARCADE FIRE The Sub­urbs (Merge Records)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

When I heard that the new Arcade Fire al­bum was ti­tled The Sub­urbs, my first re­sponse was “Uh-oh.” The soul-suck­ing uni­for­mity of sub­ur­bia is a sub­ject well mined in pop cul­ture, of­ten to mid­dling, ob­vi­ous re­sults. Arcade Fire ex­plored it with a sense of Spiel­ber­gian whimsy on its cel­e­brated de­but, Fu­neral; this, the group’s third al­bum, is more like the work of di­rec­tor Sam Men­des ( Rev­o­lu­tion­ary

Road): slightly mean-spir­ited but ul­ti­mately vac­u­ous, with overused sopho­moric sig­ni­fiers of big themes. The Sub­urbs aims for grand state­ment — the ex­ten­sive run­ning time may ex­em­plify the te­dious ex­cess of sprawl bet­ter than the lyrical con­tent — but it doesn’t cover much new ground. Only on the bit­ing “Ro­coco” and the wise “City With No Chil­dren” does Arcade Fire sound hu­man and not like a band en­gag­ing in paint-by-num­bers angst. It all plays out as a grind­ing, midtempo dirge with some eclec­tic touches: a jaunty pi­ano here, a disco beat and key­board funk there. But maybe I’m too old for this al­bum. As a teen, I’d have loved this sneer­ing as­sault on all things mun­dane. Now I’m more com­fort­able with peo­ple choos­ing to live in ways that I find dull, I can eas­ily avoid sprawl if I want to, and when I’m an­gry, I have much big­ger ma­chines to rage against.

— Robert B. Ker

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