The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
Merge Records, August 3, 2010
Track Listing: 1. The Suburbs, 2. Ready to Start, 3. Modern Man, 4. Rococo, 5. Empty Room, 6. City with No Children, 7. Half Light I, 8. Half Light II (No Celebration), 9. Suburban War, 10. Month of May, 11. Wasted Hours, 12. Deep Blue, 13. We Used to Wait, 14. Sprawl I (Flatland), 15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), 16. The Suburbs (Continued)
“And my life is coming but I don’t know when”
-from “Empty Room”
It’s early autumn and today I have just completed another trip around the Sun. Having a greater sense of urgency for life than I ever possessed and not wanting to waste one precious moment, the dog woke me up so early that we had walked over a mile down the beach before the orange nuclear furnace peeked above the watery horizon. It would be a few minutes before the other regular dog people would show up and as I waited I watched the Sun and thought about how I should spend the day.
Arcade Fire’s most recent album, The Suburbs, was getting a lot of my extremely valuable, increasingly scarce listening time. Since it continued to reveal itself with each new play both on the box and in my head, I couldn’t wait to get home and crank it up again. But first the dog needed her exercise.
After a joyous hour of retrieving in the water and wrestling with her doggie friends we returned home. I was sitting on the deck waiting for the dog to dry out a bit more from the morning’s adventure. As I was looking up through the burr oak that protects the deck, I began to daydream about a similar day I had experienced as a teenager. It was the same day of the year, the sky was incredibly blue both then and now and both days were uncharacteristically warm, summer like.
I was transported back through the decades. I was the kid growing up in the suburbs looking up through the branches of several giant oak trees that both graced and dominated the back of my parents’ and their neighbors’ yards. The younger tree in my current yard is in fact the offspring of one of the old giants.
Those big trees were trapped in the small yards of the suburban plots that were forcibly crammed into and over a prairie oak savannah that had existed there for centuries before the suburban subdivision sprouted like some toxic invasive alien species. With each new house the savannah at first became fragmented then it became unrecognizable until finally it just melted away one tree at a time without anyone noticing that it had disappeared or even realizing what they had lost.
“Lock us up safe
And hide the key
But the night tears us loose
And in the half-light we’re free
Strange how the half-light
Can make a place new
You can’t recognize me
And I can’t recognize you”
-from “Half Light I”
The buyers of these houses were the parents of the dreaded baby boom generation. They were my parents. All of the parents worked so hard to attain the dream. They sought tranquility and safety and in the end all they got was alienation and a suspended sentence. Since we are all responsible for creating the suburbs, I guess we all got a suspended sentence that has just recently been imposed.
“We used to wait”
-from “We Used to Wait”
I was waiting for something on that warm teenage day, just like I am waiting for something today. Waiting for something to get started. My life is coming but I don’t know when so in the meantime I’ll just keep spinning around the Sun burning hours, days, weeks, months, and entire years, nay, entire decades.
I thought what I was waiting for was here, under this new younger oak, but lately I have become obsessed with the idea that I no longer belong here. My life is coming and I am waiting to be somewhere else.
“Let the century pass me by
Standing under a night sky
Tomorrow means nothing
I was only a child then
Feeling barely alive when
I heard a song from the speaker of a passing car
Been praying to a dying star
The memory’s fading
I can almost remember singing
La, La, La, La, La, La La, La,
La, La, La, La, La La, La, La”
-from “Deep Blue”
Well it was me and my friends. We were the ones in the passing car with the radio turned up loud listening to the Beatles. That’s who the band heard and sang La, La, La, La, La, La La, to. We were always driving somewhere. Cruising was our reason for being. We were always leaving, running away from the sterility of the suburbs.
I am always leaving without really leaving, running in circles like The Three Stooges do when they’re trapped in a bad situation instead of actually running away. Maybe now the waiting is over. Maybe now there will be no more wasted hours. At least now I have the perfect soundtrack for my escape.
“Now the music divides us into tribes
You choose your side
I’ll choose my side”
-from “Suburban War”