by Gianpaolo Arena

Arcade Fire “The Suburbs” 2010 City Slang 


The first album “Funeral” made them known and appreciated, “Neon Bible” exaggerated certain pomp and orchestral atmospheres and  the third “Suburbs” brings us to the center of the alt / mainstream / pop / rock world. The recent realization of “Her”, filmed by director Spike Jonze, recently in theaters, takes them back again to the center of media attention. Jonze is also the author of the first short-film video that accompanies the first song of the album that relates to the splendor, the disorientation, the epiphanies of the unique golden age of adolescence. The Canadians, always mindful of the school of Simon and Garfunkel, are able to assert their style in which the diversity of their sound is further influenced by echoes of African and Brazilian rhythms. Orfeo Negro in “Berlin sauce”? Mittle Europe meets Van Dyke Parks? Instruments in profusion, different rhythm sections and a refined use of the electronic recording studio, Win Butler and multi-instrumentalist (and wife) Regine Chassagne mark in a bubbling magma of sound their sumptuous arrangements and their bright melodies.


Gabriel Jones (Montreal, 1973), lives and works in Brooklyn and Paris and is the author of the 8 covers of the album ‘The Suburbs’, in collaboration with Arcade Fire, art director Vincent Morisset and Caroline Robert designers. The artwork has received a Grammy Award in 2012 for Best Album Packaging. The photographs were taken during a 'road trip’ in various neighborhoods in Texas and tell the experiences of the American suburbs. Stories of ordinary life, seen from the car, and anonymous residential areas where the pre-tension drama evaporates into the usual story of disillusionment. As if to emphasize the centrality of the suburbs for them, who are peripherally native (the French-speaking Quebec) in a peripheral country (Canada) and to recall how each of us actually lives one’s own personal cultural, social, and ideological geography. These are places from which to leave, but also the place of America where its dreams, and its more intimate aspirations are raised. The images were projected on a large format screen, in which a car and the band members were part of the scenery, while Jones was photographing the set. The moods that emerge are those colorful, nostalgic and vibrant  Xerox atmospheres. The portraits of Jones were commissioned by numerous magazines as The New York Times Magazine, Le Monde Magazine, and Surface Magazine.

© Video Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”. Taken from the short film: "Scenes From The Suburbs".

“The Suburbs”

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 
In 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

© Video Arcade Fire “Ready to Start”, directed by Charlie Lightning. Audio and Film Recorded Live at Hackney Empire, London July 7th, 2010

© Gabriel Jones | All copyright remains with the photographer and property


Undercover is a special issue dedicated to photographers and musical covers.