Songs I can’t get enough of #1: “Suburban War” – Arcade Fire

I’m a sucker for a crescendo…I really am. There is something about when a song builds up to a point where you think the instruments will burst into flames…and then they do…sorta…metaphorically. If done properly, in my opinion, the song will drive you up a long road and then jump off a cliff. It’s the Evel Knievel of song construction…only you hope he lands on the other side, otherwise it can be a complete disaster.  Fire, flames, women screaming, children crying…you get the picture. I think the most perfect example of a rock crescendo is Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” off of their Blue Album, but we’ll get to that later.

On to Arcade Fire.

So I picked up the new Arcade Fire album The Suburbs a few weeks back, and it’s amazing. If you enjoyed their first two albums: Funeral and Neon Bible, then you’ll surely enjoy their latest release.  The 9th song on The Suburbs is “Suburban War”, and I can’t get enough of it.

First let’s look at the lyrics:

Let’s go for a drive and see the town tonight
There’s nothing to do but I don’t mind when I’m with you

This town’s so strange they built it to change
And while we sleep we know the streets get rearranged
With my old friends it was so different then
Before your war against the suburbs began

Before it began

Now the music divides us into tribes
You grew your hair so I grew mine
You said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind

With my old friends I can remember when
You cut your hair, I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in could be distant stars
And I search for you in every passing car

The night’s so long
Yeah the night’s so long
I’ve been living in the shadows of your song
Been living in the shadows of your song

In the suburbs I, I learned to drive
And you told me we would never survive,
So grab your mother’s keys we leave tonight

But you started a war that we can’t win
They keep erasing all the streets we grew up in
Now the music divides us into tribes
You choose your side, I’ll choose my side

Crescendo starts here

All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends are staring through me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
They don’t know me now
All my old friends, wait…

So why post the lyrics to the song? And why denote where the crescendo starts? Let’s look deeper into my interpretation meaning and how it reflects my life.

To me, this song…hold on, my chair won’t descend and I’m uncomfortable…there, I fixed it. To me, this song echos something very similar in my life (probably in yours too): growing up in the suburbs, leaving for the city, and dealing with your past. In the first few lines we get the notion that suburbia is constructed with a shelf-life and is made to be torn down and rebuilt over and over until you can’t recognize the joint.  I don’t think that can be limited to the suburbs, but it definitely happened to my neighborhood.

The next few lines show us how music reigns supreme when growing up…well it did with me.

Now the music divides us into tribes

The bands you choose when you were growing up defined who you were! I was Led Zeppelin and my best friends were Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Van Halen.  That’s who we were! Jimmy Page could kick Eddie Van Halen’s ass! (as far as I was concerned even though they’re both incredible)…we were defined by our music. Those bands were us , we drove around aimlessly listening to each and every song, and we defended them to the death.

But as we grew older and went to different high schools things started to change. I strayed to more punk and ska, and they stayed with classic rock and drifted to country.  My high school was in the city, theirs were in the suburbs. I started dressing differently, dying my hair, and pushing boundaries. My other friends didn’t…and we started to drift…

You cut your hair, I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in could be distant stars

I left the suburbs for the city and never looked back. In fact every time I went back, things looked different…felt different…it was distant…it wasn’t me, and I started to hate the fact that it was me even 5-10-15 years ago. I had declared war on the suburbs, a war I still fight.

So lets get to the crescendo…

All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends are staring through me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
They don’t know me now
All my old friends, wait…

Coming back to a place he doesn’t recognize…coming back to old friends who don’t recognize him…it’s depressing and yet beautiful.  It’s the struggle of personal growth, coming into your own, while still trying to hold on to the beauty of the past. It’s like the line from Grosse Point Break, ” You can never go home again, Oatman… but I guess you can shop there.” It’s Plato and the Allegory of the Cave…you can’t go back to the past. It’s life.

“Suburban War” is smartly divided into to two sections, his past (slow melodies – suburban) and his present (crescendo – city life). The crescendo just fucking nails it.  Shit, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat for the past hour. Damn it makes me want to jump up and smile, laugh, and scream! It’s beautifully structured: volume escalates, strings enter, drums start, and then everything comes crashing in. It’s his(my) calling card, the crescendo is his(my) life. He’s(I’m) a different man, and his(my) old life doesn’t recognize him(me).

All my old friends, wait…

…and yet they still waiting for the old him(me) to show up. Guess what? He(I) won’t.

…and the song? I can’t get enough of it.



About fuzzywuzzy

Music Addict

Posted on October 20, 2010, in Songs I Can't Get Enough Of and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I am so glad I read the whole post before I listened to the song. Reading the lyrics first brought it so close to home. And to hear you had the same experience about moving from the burbs to the city and not quite relating anymore was very parallel to what I did. I didn’t go through this until after college and my friends (and family for that matter) are still waiting too. Luckily, they still like me even though we don’t share much in common musically. Sometimes I think they live vicariously through me and my experiences. But they have been open enough to let me drag them to a Yonder Mountain String Band show once or twice. It’s something.

    Great write up. Hope you keep it going. Adding you to the blog roll.

  2. Super article, thanks for submitting this!

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