It’s something of an obsession, this fascination of Win Butler’s with the potency of childhood memory, with leaving home via a long, lonely drive and (inevitably) with returning, whether literally or only in the mind. Yep, Butler certainly has his ear tuned to the call of the (suburban) wild. Not that surprising, perhaps, given his band’s unabashed love of The Boss. So to the third LP from Arcade Fire, who first showered us with the sparks of their soulful and dizzyingly exultant orchestral pop in 2004, spinning us all head-over-heels in love. Much as we admire AF, we must confess our hearts did sag at the thought of 16 new tracks, because a) we don’t want to fall victim to Stendhal Syndrome, and b) they’re not a hip hop crew.
That ‘The Suburbs’ gets away with its panoramic sprawl – just – is a tribute to the band’s certitude and singularity of vision. It’s a record likely to divide listeners between those thrilled by the septet’s unexpected shifts and those appalled by the fact that they’ve dared move on. The hammering lamentation to the lost art of letter-writing that is ‘We Used to Wait’, the heroic ‘Suburban War’ and the cooing, curiously Kraftwerk-like ‘Rococo’ should calm them, but the frequent leaps out of character are likely to upset/puzzle purists. Once again.