I love indie music, but Arcade Fire never changed my life. Funeral wasn’t the genesis of my foray into the indie scene (that would by Sonic Youth’s Dirty) and Neon Bible didn’t reaffirm my decision to swim outside the mainstream. So obviously when Win Butler and the gang announced the release of The Suburbs, I wasn’t that excited. It made me even less excited when the two Madison Square Garden shows that corresponded with the album’s physical release were announced.
Side note: I personally think indie bands should not be playing arena shows. I also think that the Phoenix/Dirty Projectors/Wavves MSG show is going to be a disaster. But that’s just me and another conversation for a different time.
But back to The Suburbs. I wasn’t excited. I respect Arcade Fire as a band wholly, as I do think that Funeral was and still is a great album. I knew that hardcore fans of the band would be lining up weeks before to get their hands on this album and I knew they would worship it. There gets to be a point in the careers of some bands where everything touched turns to gold. With the hype surrounding The Suburbs, the 8.6 and Best New Music from Pitchfork and the subsequent charting at #1 (despite putting the album on sale for only $3.99, as Right Hear points out on Twitter) were to be expected.
But this post has less to do with the music than with the attitude surrounding the album. There are albums out there that are universally considered to be good or great albums. Beatles, Zeppelin, and Stones records are among these so-called great albums. If a person doesn’t think those records are great, he/she can at least acknowledge the impact these records had on subsequent releases and music as a whole.
But The Suburbs is already getting this kind of attention. I cannot think of another album that has gotten this kind of reaction. Maybe it’s just the people I know and talk about music with. But maybe it’s something else. For the record, I’m not totally enthralled with this “sprawl”-ing album. I think it’s long, repetitive, too epic, and overall, just too damn long. It took me three listens to actually get through the album and even then it hasn’t kept my concentration. Even songs like “Suburban War” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” that I’m supposed to like don’t do it for me (there’s only one song about sprawl in my heart).
It’s safe to say that I’ve had quite the reaction to me not liking an album. There are albums that my friends have been into that I haven’t quite been able make the same connection with where there’s been an “agree to disagree” understanding with. But with The Suburbs, that middle ground does not seem to exist. One of my Last.fm friends left me a shout about my thoughts on the album because he saw that I’d been listening it. I replied that I hadn’t really gotten into it and wasn’t really into Arcade Fire as a whole. His reply?
Wait, you’re not into Arcade Fire? Maybe I read that wrong.
This type of attitude is exactly my problem with the release of The Suburbs. Yeah, I like indie music, but I’m not super into Arcade Fire. Is that a problem in today’s music scene? I know enough about The Suburbs to know that “Rococo” tears down hipsters today “who want to own you but don’t know what game they’re playing,” which is supposed to be railing against pretentiousness. Personally, I find going against pretentiousness to be pretentious itself. Ironically, the hype surrounding this album and the overall marketing of it has created a pretentiousness in the Arcade Fire fanbase. I’m not this album’s biggest fan. I don’t need to be torn down because of that.