Arcade Fire’s Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountain)
August 10, 2010 2 Comments
Arcade Fire’s new album, The Suburbs has a great mix of different styles of music, that familiar way that Arcade Fire has of building up into massive movements, and the ever-intelligent lyricism.
The standout for me has been “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” Though it could be argued whether this is the album’s best track, it’s very clear that its placement, and how it comes into the album, is perfect. After an album of a range of emotions, the sad and happy, the lonely and bright, and after the dirge-like “Sprawl I (Flatland)” that precedes it, “Sprawl II” breaks through the whole thing, punching this massive light into the depths. It operates, effectively, as a crescendo. Though there is a track that follows it, that track serves almost like a score, that denouement to the climax of “Sprawl II.”
Some choice lyrics from the song:
They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
These days my life, I feel it has no purpose
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface
‘Cause on the surface the city lights shine
They’re calling at me, come and find your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the World’s so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights
Reading through those lyrics, and hearing them sung with a kind of ethereal light by Regine Chassagne, the song hints at escape, but more than an escape, the whole song builds towards a kind of transcendence. Hearing this song I can’t help but feel a kind of rising, a movement towards upliftment, and while the song expresses discouraging sentiments such as demands for conformity and submission to a way of life, there is a sentiment here that shines through that.
Arcade Fire has never shied from expressing gloom, and yet it finds so much brightness amidst it hall, in its music, in the way that it perceives and portrays it. The Suburbs shows the energy created from the conflict between acceptance and resistance, and “Sprawl II” brings it all to a beautiful, if unresolved end.