NPR’s Exclusive First Listen has opened up the gates for a preview of the highly anticipated third release from Canada’s indie sensation Arcade Fire, released August 3rd. Between that and the opportunity to see the band play live at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, August 5th on their Youtube channel (10 pm EST/7 pm PST), fans have an opportunity to weigh in on the new offering for themselves.
The Suburbs opens with the title track meandering along with images of kids running through yards. It’s a glimpse into frontman Win Butler’s childhood near Houston, Texas, as appropriately enough the band is his vision – with his brother Will and wife Reginé Chassagne beside him to round out a solid group of seven, plus additional musicians as needed. Things pick up by the second track, “Ready to Start” which along with “Empty Room” could be the instant classic “Keep the Car Running” was for their last CD, Neon Bible. The other tracks present a cohesive whole with Win Butler’s distinctive voice riding the instrumental wave behind him, never overpowering and always in synch with the rest of the band. Some surprises include the hard rollicking sound of “Month of May” and the brazen synths of “The Sprawl II”. Mellower moments are presented during the stripped down “Wasted Hours” and the lovely symphonic end piece, “The Suburbs (continued)”.
If I could pick any time and place to see Arcade Fire it would have been during their early days when they played New York City’s Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, that shrine to early modern dance. The vast space of Madison Square Garden holds little appeal but sitting in front of a computer screen, I’ll gladly submit to the vision of director Terry Gilliam. It’s online community at its best.