Arcade Fire promotes third album ‘The Suburbs' in concert

by Tatiana Cooke | 8/5/10 10:00pm

Three years after the indie-rock group Arcade Fire released "Neon Bible," they unveiled their third album "The Suburbs" on Aug 3. With dynamic tracks in their latest album, it is clear that the Canadian group has mastered the art of subtle orchestration. In many ways, however, the recent multi-media enterprises surrounding Arcade Fire prove to be more interesting than their music alone.

Arcade Fire held a concert on Aug. 4 at Madison Square Garden to showcase the new release. Directed by Terry Gilliam, the Monty Python troupe member who has also directed films including "Brazil" and "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," the concert was the first of the "Unstaged" concert series co-sponsored by American Express and YouTube.

Concert footage was streamed live to the band's VEVO channel as a part of a movement within the music industry to find new ways to generate revenue and find corporate sponsors, especially when profits from sales of CDs and singles are rapidly declining.

Gilliam spoke about his work in an interview with The New York Times and described the band's music as "poetry that doesn't provide the answers but certainly opens up possibilities in the way you perceive things."

Promotional videos for the concert show Gilliam's influence one features a ticking armoire with antlers that opens to release puppet musicians playing a clip from Arcade Fire's track "Rococo." Another plays a conversation between band members while an animated man converses with and finally crushes and eats a tiny spotted ballerina dancing in the palm of his hand.

While Merge Records, the record company releasing "The Suburbs," and American Express are clearly looking for ways to cash in on Arcade Fire's success, the indie group comes with a social conscience. Band member Regine Chassagne is a second-generation Haitian immigrant and the group has organized benefit concerts for the Haiti branch of Partners in Health, a non-profit healthcare organization co-founded by College President Jim Yong Kim.

The band also donated all its licensing proceeds from the use of the song "Wake Up" during the 2010 Super Bowl to Partners in Health relief efforts after this year's earthquake in Haiti.

Arcade Fire is also collaborating with director Spike Jonze on a short film that bandleader Win Butler described as a "science-fiction B-movie companion piece for the record" in an interview with music website Pitchfork. Arcade Fire's music served as the soundtrack for Jonze's feature film "Where the Wild Things Are."

The amalgam of internet resources that the band has used to stir interest in their new release parallels the wide range of instruments they feature in "The Suburbs." Songs include everything from orchestral sounds to synthesizers and accordion riffs.

Arcade Fire's multimedia mixing efforts seem to appeal to a culture that is increasingly interested in the mish-mash nature of internet art, and the group has managed to fill stadiums in almost all stops on its round-the-world promotional tour. It is not surprising that their recent activity has been surrounded by considerable buzz in the blogosphere.

Arcade Fire produced "The Suburbs" with Markus Dravs, who also worked with them on "Neon Bible" and the new tracks do not stray far from the themes and sounds of Arcade Fire's other albums.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing and "The Suburbs" does find something new to say with its maturing voice.