Arcade Fire are blazing a trail with new suburban sound for the stadium crowd
Even the dogs on the street accept that Neon Bible was the album of 2007. It was aggrieved, excitingly complex, weird, Byzantine, obviously influenced by Springsteen yet beautifully tense.
Strip away the febrile, esoteric instrumentation from 'Black Mirror' and 'No Cars Go', wrote Peter Raphides in 2007, "and you're left with the everyman appeal of Butler's politically engaged paeans to spiritual betterment".
Still, it was on every music critic's end-of-year best-of list. The year's best album is Montreal septet Arcade Fire's follow-up -- The Suburbs. One critic suggested that, as the title suggests, "it's about those grey zones between the city and the countryside".
Asked by Clash magazine why he chose to make a record loosely about suburbia, Arcade Fire indie front fella and songwriter Win Butler said: "It's not a conscious decision, you just get inspired by what you get inspired by.
"I got a letter from an old friend and it had a picture of him and his daughter at the mall near where my brother and I grew up [in Houston, Texas]. It was unpredictably moving and it brought back a lot of memories.
"Montreal is the place I've lived longest besides Texas. I've been there for almost 10 years now. It feels like home. Even though Houston is currently the place I've lived longest in my life it's the place I feel least connected to, so even though it's not all literal and not all about me, I wanted to make a record about that feeling."
What Butler has also made is an album about American ennui in its advanced stages. The Daily Telegraph noted that he was gaining an ironic inspiration from the sense of dread that comes with "living in today's decaying, centreless, post-9/11 North American cities".
But, and this is a big but, there are also places on The Suburbs, however gruelling, where Arcade Fire sound unashamedly eighties -- read Supertramp and Simple Minds. The Suburbs has a faint echo of Carole King about its light piano sparkle.
All in all, The Suburbs is a more joyous creation than either of its predecessors (debut Funeral, released in 2004, followed three years later by Neon Bible).
"Music is always reflective of the time in which it was created," says Win.
"It's something that you can hear in music no matter what it's about. To me that's one of the things that's interesting."
Arcade Fire play the O2 on December 5 and 6, with support Vampire Weekend and Devendra Banhart