From left, Win Butler, Richard Parry and Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire.
From left, Win Butler, Richard Parry and Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire.

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs



There are plenty of good reasons to be suspicious about Arcade Fire. With their 2004 debut, Funeral, the North American rockers provided one of the best-loved albums of the past decade - but the ensuing years saw them display a level of pomp and humourlessness that one might expect to witness on a North Korean public holiday.

Their 2007 release, Neon Bible, was a huge commercial and critical success, which helped the group find a mainstream audience. But with its focus on the environment, terrorism and celebrity culture, it felt every bit as preachy as the televangelists that the album's title was supposed to mock. Their live shows saw the frontman Win Butler resembling a wild-eyed cult leader, barking orders at his band and the audience alike. Then there were the song titles, laden with brackets and Roman numerals, resembling instructions for building flat-pack furniture. It just all seemed a little bit silly.

Thankfully, The Suburbs sees the Texan-Haitian-French Canadian septet crafting a sound that is less ostentatious than before and telling a story that is far more personal. It is an album about living in the suburban sprawl during the 1980s - a love letter to a simpler time. Gone are the giant string arrangements and brass sections (one song on Neon Bible even featured a church organ) - instead, many of the tunes fit around a simple acoustic guitar part. No release that pays homage to the 1980s would be complete without a few synthesisers and this album obliges, albeit with tremendous subtlety.

It kicks off with the upbeat piano-driven title track, The Suburbs, a nostalgic jaunt in which Butler recalls the rivalries of old: "You always seemed so sure/That one day we would be fighting/In a suburban war/Your part of town against mine." Empty Room starts with a violin flurry that could accompany a 1950s washing-up powder advertisement, before stomping drums and guitars remind us of the Arcade Fire of old.

The record lacks the kind of knock-out tracks that made Funeral so essential, such as Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Wake Up or Rebellion (Lies) - but The Suburbs certainly isn't short on great tunes. The slow-paced City With No Children has the most glorious, meandering bassline in recent memory and Butler commands the track with the delicate power of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. A slowly echoing synth provides the album with its most emotionally resonant moment on the the gorgeously understated Half Light II (No Celebration). Tucked away towards the end, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) features the ghostly vocals of Régine Chassagne (the group's multi-instrumentalist and Butler's wife) accompanied by further excellent electronic elements and one of the album's catchiest choruses - reminiscent of the British synth-pop group OMD.

While the band have clearly refined their sound by honing in their excesses, the record itself is rather long-winded. At 16 tracks and more than an hour in length, the group's ode to perpetual childhood actually feels like it might go on forever. What's more, even when discussing the whimsy and innocence of youth, the agitated Butler shows little sign of lightening up. Arcade Fire have produced an album that departs from its predecessors both musically and emotionally, but without losing any of the group's distinctiveness. While newcomers may feel bogged down by the sheer amount of music here, there are enough moments of brilliance for even the biggest sceptic to see the group in a different light.

Abu Dhabi Card

5pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 80,000 1,400m

National selection: AF Mohanak

5.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 90,000 1,400m

National selection: Jayide Al Boraq

6pm: Handicap (TB) Dh 100,000 1,400m

National selection: Rocket Power

6.30pm: Abu Dhabi Championship Listed (PA) Dh 180,000 1,600m

National selection: Ihtesham

7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Handicap (PA) Dh 70,000 1,600m

National selection: Noof KB

7.30pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 80,000 2.200m

National selection: EL Faust

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo

Power: 181hp

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Australia tour of Pakistan

March 4-8: First Test, Rawalpindi

March 12-16: Second Test, Karachi

March 21-25: Third Test, Lahore

March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi

March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi

April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi

April 5: T20I, Rawalpindi

Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

LUKA CHUPPI

Director: Laxman Utekar

Producer: Maddock Films, Jio Cinema

Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon​​​​​​​, Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak, Aparshakti Khurana

Rating: 3/5

if you go

The flights

Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines fly direct from the UAE to Singapore from Dh2,265 return including taxes. The flight takes about 7 hours.

The hotel

Rooms at the M Social Singapore cost from SG $179 (Dh488) per night including taxes.

The tour

Makan Makan Walking group tours costs from SG $90 (Dh245) per person for about three hours. Tailor-made tours can be arranged. For details go to www.woknstroll.com.sg

Haemoglobin disorders explained

Thalassaemia is part of a family of genetic conditions affecting the blood known as haemoglobin disorders.

Haemoglobin is a substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen and a lack of it triggers anemia, leaving patients very weak, short of breath and pale.

The most severe type of the condition is typically inherited when both parents are carriers. Those patients often require regular blood transfusions - about 450 of the UAE's 2,000 thalassaemia patients - though frequent transfusions can lead to too much iron in the body and heart and liver problems.

The condition mainly affects people of Mediterranean, South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle Eastern origin. Saudi Arabia recorded 45,892 cases of carriers between 2004 and 2014.

A World Health Organisation study estimated that globally there are at least 950,000 'new carrier couples' every year and annually there are 1.33 million at-risk pregnancies.

Company Profile

Company name: myZoi
Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
Number of staff: 37
Investment: Initial undisclosed funding from SC Ventures; second round of funding totalling $14 million from a consortium of SBI, a Japanese VC firm, and SC Venture