Arcade Fire put out The Suburbs, their third album, on Tuesday. I picked up my copy from my local Post Office this morning. I've spun it twice. A few more spins and I'll write about it. I'm going to say extremely warm things about it, because it's an astounding album. I'm surprised by how many critics are actually saying smart, positive things about it, given the oft-realized critic's temptation to rip apart an "anticipated" third album.
Now here's a guy who is not saying smart things about it, or saying anything smart at all, though a smartass he is, tried and true: Sputnikmusik's Adam Downer. You can access his review of the album here. I've read reviews with which I strongly disagreed, like anyone who reads reviews. I've read reviews which have pissed me off. I've never read a professional review so stupid as Downer's piece on The Suburbs. Every thing he says is wrong, and then two steps beyond wrong: many of his statements are inexplicable. His writing ain't worth writing home about, either. Look at his capitalization when he writes that the album "has a lot of Very Fine Things to say," which continues, "usually about the horrors of apathy, and that's fine in and of itself." Drop the "in and of itself." Then check out these two sentences, real winners: "If Butler weren't so intent of flipping everyone off, the album could have been the important, mammoth commentary on modern hipster culture it's intended as. Instead it just sort of exists as this sour shadow of a band that was once described as 'hopeful.'" It's embarrassing those sentences exist.
His statements about the album are vague, impossible to follow, and without supporting evidence, poor English aside. When he does provide evidence, it works against his ideas, the ideas of a man very insecure about Arcade Fire, and much, much more so, Win Butler. "He hates being in the Arcade Fire because he hates Arcade Fire fans--which, seeing as Arcade Fire fans mostly suck, is pretty legitimate," Downer wrote. "He hates that he fronts a polarizing indie megaband and not an iconic Americana band whose audience will just eat whatever shit it feeds them." Butler apparently finds The Suburbs a "nebulous purgatory," reacting by "casting his audience as pricks." Butler, asshole that he is, even sings, "They build it up just to burn it back down"--according to Downer, a Seventies cliche. The sneaky bastard is even having an existential crisis across The Suburbs. What's his deal? Downer: "Basically, he hates that he's not Bruce Springsteen." Don't we all?
Downer does discuss more than Butler's obnoxious deficiencies. "Neon Bible sounded like an Arcade Fire Record and Funeral actually was one," Downer states, and yes, those are his italics. "Funeral actually had something of consequence to convey." What that is, Downer will never reveal, of course. He chides Neon Bible for its "pseudo-political babble"--eww, "pseudo-political," gahk--and suggests The Suburbs's lyrics are "bitter and deeply resentful, partially because of who Butler's become, but mostly of who we, his audience, aren't." (No, please, Mr. Downer, let me. The issue is less who Butler's become, and more who he hasn't: Bruce Springsteen.)
What's he really trying to say about the album? "It's a shame, really, because even with a theme this confrontational, it could have been much more relatable." "Sure, there are some wonderful songs here, songs where Butler focuses on something that isn't the idiocy of indie bloggers," the veiled topic at the heart of all-too-many of this album's songs. Downer's final sentence: "And with that comes the creeping idea that maybe, underneath Funeral's perfection and Neon Bible's hugeness, they're not all that interesting." I don't know you, Mr. Downer, but I read your piece about The Suburbs. And with that comes the creeping idea that you're a fucking moron.
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