Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth From The Suburbs

Having Independence Day fall on a Monday provides an extra special three day weekend. Yesterday, all along my block barbeques were fired up. The air was filled with the smell of delicious meats grilling. Children ran, played, laughed and sometimes cried. Later, the sky was filled with backyard fireworks shows. It was a reminder of the American dream.

Of course there are those who are critical of the suburbs. We've had fun with Mitch Berg's occasional cities versus suburbs meme. Mostly these arguments have been in good fun. However, criticism of the suburbs is generally a liberal meme, as our liberal politicians bemoan the additional freedoms that moving away from the city tend to offer middle class Americans. That is is why it's fun to tweak Mitch over his urban bias.

We've also documented the Grammy Awards tendancy to honor Democratic politicians. This extends to liberal pundits as well. This year liberal commentator Jon Stewart won for his audiobook, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth."

The winner for best album was ostemnsibly a surprise, as Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire took the honors. However, keen Grammy observers might have predicted that they would win for their album, "The Suburbs," based on the Grammy's political agenda.

Arcade Fire disputes the idea that their album is anti-suburban. Singer Win Butler suggests it:

“is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it's a letter from the suburbs.”

Yet here are a few of the song titles from the album:
The Suburbs
City With No Children
Half Light II (No Celebration)
Suburban War
Wasted Hours
Sprawl I (Flatland)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

To provide some context, here are some of the lyrics from the title cut:

In the suburbs I
I learned to drive
And you told me we'd never survive
Grab your mother's keys we're leavin'

You always seemed so sure
That one day we'd be fighting
A suburban war
your part of town against mine
I saw you standing on the opposite shore

But by the time the first bombs fell
We were already bored
We were already, already bored

Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling
Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling again

Kids wanna be so hard
But in my dreams we're still screamin' and runnin' through the yard
And all of the walls that they built in the seventies finally fall
And all of the houses they built in the seventies finally fall
Meant nothin' at all
Meant nothin' at all
It meant nothin

None of this sounds too pro-suburb or for that matter pro-American. Ultimately, I judge musicians on their music, as opposed to their politics. While Arcade Fire boasts a bunch of skilled musicians and interesting arrangements, their lyrics are typical angst ridden whining and I don't personally like the vocals of Win Butler.

Fortunately, Butler doesn't take lead vocals on every song. My favorite from this album is "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," featuring Butler's wife, Regine Chassange. It's a catchy tune, even if it bemoans the fact that our cities extend a few miles furthar than our friends at the Met Council would allow: