on the right track: the arcade fire – sprawl II (mountains beyond mountains)

i had the pleasure of seeing the arcade fire this past monday at the lovely mann center for performing arts here in philly. needless to say, they put on a rapturous, near flawless performance that paid equal respect to past albums (that “power out/rebellion” one-two punch still slays) and the triumphant, newly released the suburbs. the new songs, mostly more brooding and restrained than arcade anthems past, each held their own quite nicely, though looking back, it’s one song in particular that stands out (both on record and on stage) as truly transcendant, both for how completely different it is from anything else the band has done and for how the philly audience received it.

like previous fan favorites “haiti” and “black wave,” “sprawl II (mountains beyond mountains)” is an all-too-rare showcase for the band’s relatively unsung heroine (and main man win butler’s wife) regine chassagne. coming after that rollicking “rebellion” rendering i referenced in the first paragraph, it seemed to leave the crowd somewhat speechless and uncertain, which is unsurprising. where as past arcade fire classics were urgent, stadium storming rockers, this saw them trying on a shiny synth-pop suit.

in a recent review i wrote of the record for y-not radio, i likened the song, as many have at this point, to a modern day “heart of glass,” splendidly spliced with “heartbeats” by the knife. live, the song was a little rawer, but no less measured or mesmerizing in its ebulliently epic swell. suddenly the silence throughout the mann was less perplexed than spellbound, and by the time regine wailed her final lament of being told to stop her pretentious singing and punch the clock, prancing about the stage with a ribboned tambourine surely borrowed from florence and the machine, everyone was clapping along.

it’s doubtful that the arcade fire will continue to pursue this direction full-time in the future, but damn if they couldn’t. maybe regine should consider launching a side project…

the suburbs is out now on merge records, and it’s good.

on another note, i’ve noticed that i seem to naturally favor the penultimate tracks on albums with these posts. i’ll try to work on that.


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One Response to “on the right track: the arcade fire – sprawl II (mountains beyond mountains)”

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