Today marks the release of Arcade Fireís latest album The Suburbs, but you know that, because the hype has been overwhelming. It's getting the much coveted, all important radio attention, it's getting critics creaming their jeans, and its hype is reaching a critical mass that threatens to explode over the entirety of North America. I have trouble leaving the house without someone I know talking about the new Arcade Fire album. My ultimate problem with that is this: The album is bad. Real bad.
Pitchfork Media feared the album would suffer from the same pitfalls that Neon Bible suffered and were excited to report that it did not. Really? Let's take a look at that. Neon Bible was an attempt at some sort of epic masterpiece that fell flat on its face. It focused too much on its influences and what there was of an original sound being pursued was honestly the worst aspect of it. The Suburbs actually exacerbates those problems. It has the same general sound as Neon Bible, but if Neon Bible was influenced by Bowie and Springsteen, The Suburbs lazily rips them off. It attempts to be less epic and more mundane than Neon Bible (hence "the suburbs"), yet somehow manages to be even more of a test of patience, running for over an hour, making it the longest Arcade Fire album yet. The songs aren't necessarily monolithic in scale or length, there's just a lot of them, and the best moments are few and far between.
Where The Suburbs excels -- and it's a rarity -- is when it throws all the usual Arcade Fire trappings to the wind and gets back to something resembling that first album we all love. "Empty Room," "Month of May," and the U2-ripping "Half Light II (No Celebration)" are somewhat faceless rockers, but they're at least trying to just get down and not trying to achieve anything out of their reach.
But letís focus on what Arcade Fire offers to music in 2010. Why is this album so important in the grand scheme of things? Why is there such hype for its release?
When I listen to The Suburbs, I hear nothing that hasn't been done before and isn't being done by other bands. Let's be honest, Funeral was overrated even when it came out, sure, but it was definitely highly influential and responsible for indoctrinating so many into this ironically now massive machine we call "indie."
The Suburbs seems to be an active thumbing of the nose at experimentation or innovation. It's neither modern, nor does it advance their sound or music as a whole. It simply exists as an exercise in making an Arcade Fire album. That's enough for most die-hards, but the level of hype and attention it's receiving seems unnecessary. Normally when a band peaks and begins to just repeat itself for the sake of the most hardcore fans, the attention dies off. Instead, this is possibly more attention than I remember Neon Bible getting.
Why be excited when Arcade Fire has done nothing to be excited about?