There is so much more I have to say about the Arcade Fire’s new LP The Suburbs, but I will pre-empt my full review because you just have to see this. You may need to download Google Chrome for it to work properly, but that doesn’t take long and it’s worth it.
Basically it’s an interactive short film set to one of the rousingest, soaringest, best songs from the album, “We Used To Wait”. Directed and created by Chris Milk, you plug in the address of your childhood home and then the film uses Google Streetview and HTML5 to bring the song to life. It’s called The Wilderness Downtown. Now I’m not overly techy, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this before, and you get the sense as you watch it that this could well be the future of music videos.
I used to write,
I used to write letters, I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain
But by the time we met
By the time we met the times had already changed
So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was left standing in the wilderness downtown
It seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what’s stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
When you try the video, you’ll see this becomes a key interactive element – you’re invited to write a postcard to your younger self with this beautiful sprawling, breathing font that then becomes part of the animation. Bringing in a social media element, at the end you have the option of sending your postcard into the ether – it may be delivered to someone else who watches the video, it might even end up being used as part of the Arcade Fire’s live show visuals.
This is a song made for our generation – overwhelmed with options and entitlement, impatient and petulant that we might have to wait or work for anything. The song and the visualisation also capture well the way we indulge ourselves with nostalgia for the simplicity of our childhoods. But I think my favourite part is the chant at the end…
We used to wait for it
We used to wait for it
Now we’re screaming sing the chorus again
… possibly because it recalls a timeless album from another band for the ages: Roxette’s classic Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus.