Friday, May 28, 2010

Arcade Fire's Flame Flickering?

Unless you live under a rock (no offense intended if you do), you've heard that Arcade Fire has released two tracks from their upcoming third LP, The Suburbs. If you want more info on it, you can go here, but that's not what this post is about. Every music blogger in the blogosphere has already added his/her two cents on the strengths and weaknesses of the releases, so anything I add just retraces steps on well-trod ground.

Although it's entirely possible that this pair of releases is unrepresentative of the full-length to come, they're decidedly underwhelming when you consider that this is the same band that debuted in 2004 with the achingly beautiful Funeral. As I searched to find the community's response to AF's new efforts, I came across one particularly interesting remark made by a member of AtEase's message board:

Now, for those not familiar with the albums referenced in the above remark, the poster is referring to Interpol's 2001 debut Turn on the Bright Lights, The Strokes' 2001 debut Is This It, and Coldplay's 2000 debut Parachutes. Save Coldplay's bullshit Radiohead-lite (albeit leagues above A Rush of Blood, X&Y, and Viva La Vida) ripoff, these albums are widely accepted as landmark albums in music—history. Likewise, after these records' release in the wee moments of the new millennium, the respective bands struggled to create another masterpiece in their follow-ups. Chalk it up to pressure, hyperscrutiny, or the old adage "you get your whole life to write your first album and sixth months to write your second," but whatever the case, Antics, Room on Fire, and A Rush of Blood to the Head simply didn't offer the albums-worth of consummate artistry that their predecessors did. That said, these albums were by no means awful; in fact, they stand as significantly above average efforts (Antics is actually in my car's CD player as I write), but they represent a marked decent in quality that would continue on succeeding albums.

By the time Our Love to Admire, First Impressions of Earth, and X&Y hit the shelves, the bands were shells of the former selves (Coldplay essentially just more distilled, derivative horseshit). It is at this third LP where we find Arcade Fire now, having released a solid—albeit distinctly weaker—sophomore album in Neon Bible. If history is any indicator, we are arguably on the brink of the making or breaking of Arcade Fire's career. That is, if we set aside Coldplay for a moment (as they are mainstream and answer to wholly different rules than indie counterparts), we note Interpol and The Strokes' relative dissolution. Interpol's lead singer, Paul Banks, released his debut solo LP, Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper; The Strokes' lead singer, Julian Casablancas, released his debut solo LP, Phrazes for the Young. Bass mastermind and creative force Carlos D. has left Interpol after recording LP4. Interpol has been silent for three years since LP3, The Strokes for four.

So, what does this all mean? Obviously, we'll only know for sure when Arcade Fire's The Suburbs drops on August 3, but if their musical counterparts are any indication, things don't look good. I personally foresee AF assuming a Band of Horses status, cranking out enjoyable music but essentially just mimicking their former selves with nauseatingly saccharine anthems. Granted, that's only my opinion; I want to hear yours. Voice your opinion in the comments.

The Suburbs
Month of May


Anonymous said...

This is the same old story and has been beaten to death more than any other discussion in "indie" music. Bottom line is, no one will ever be happy. The co-rise of Radiohead's creative peak and the internet has doomed nearly every band who debuts with something brilliant. If Radiohead (whom I'm a huge fan of) manages to put out another "masterpiece" on par with OK Computer/Kid A, then I'll eat my words. Otherwise, it just took them more time to reach their creative peak (there are a few other examples out there). These three bands (yes, leave Coldplay as I agree they play by a different set of rules) hit their creative peak right from the start. I'm ok with that and while I would love another Funeral/TOTBL/TII, I'm content if AF can at least put out something great that doesn't reach for the big chorus mainstream audience (as I believe OLTA and FIOE did to a huge fault). Both of these songs are an indication that they are not, so that's a huge start. They could have easily pumped up the synthy sound (maybe they're Regine backing vocals?) in the background of Suburbs (say, like Snowden by Doves)and try to make a big power ballad, arena tune out of it, but a lot of the details have been kept subtle. I say good for them on this account and though I'm sure it won't be as good as Funeral, I'm not ready to write them off due to their own past brilliance.

Anyway, I'm not sure why I'm indulging. This argument is so tired.

And Coldplay...that's another story. I like them when I hear them, they're on my ipod, but I never choose to listen to it. They're innocuous. The second most tired discussion is why anyone gives a crap about them enough to spur such acid tongues all the time. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

No one gets more than one or two great ones. Except Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Decades passed between Dylan's 60s run and Blood on the Tracks, Blood on the Tracks and Time Out of Mind. It's just rare to reach that high. The Strokes and Arcade Fire got there once. It's more than OK if they don't get there again.

The Coldplay hating, by the way, is bandwagon. Radiohead lite?? I love Radiohead, but they couldn't write anything as undeniable as Viva La Vida if they had a century to do it. Everyone's so scared to admit it (instead they say, "I like them when I hear them, they're on my ipod, but I never choose to listen to it." - spare me) Rush of Blood is their best so far, but I'm not certain they've hit their peak.

And you know who the most mainstream band of all time is? It's the Beatles. You can't like the Beatles and belittle mainstream.

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