(You can watch “The Suburbs” video embedded above, or head over to Arcade Fire’s website to watch a better quality version.)
…I think that the music video for Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” will become a classic.
I know that it’s hard for music videos to achieve the ubiquity that they used to. MTV doesn’t play music anymore, and I recently discovered that Much Music is now playing videos in ADD-friendly one minute snippets (seriously!). But this thing is just too good.
It’s directed by my boy Spike Jonze, and it’s a fantastic addition to his catalogue. Throughout the 90’s Jonze was a prominent music video director, most famous for clips such as the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Weezers “Buddy Holly“. He broke into feature films with 1999’s Being John Malkovich (which earned him a Best Director Oscar nomination) and has since directed 2002’s Adaptation. and 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Although he’s still been directing music videos, his output decreased in the past decade. Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice“, Phantom Planet’s “Big Brat“, and Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” all serve as highlights of his post-Malkovich career. However, I think he’s outdone himself here.
It’s crazy to me that such a cryptic video can make me feel so many things. There are so many unanswered questions. There were rumours earlier this year that Jonze was working with the band on a sci-fi short film, which could potentially expand on this video (or could BE this video). But in a way, I think I’d prefer to let it stand on its own.
It starts off with your standard directionless youth getting into hijinks. It’s a music video staple, but it works so much more effectively when Jonze is behind the camera. He always imbues his films with an airy tinge of nostalgia. The images of faceless suburbs and bored kids immediately took me back to my own childhood.
But then things start to get strange. The military is in town, one of the kids gets a haircut, and the whole friendship crumbles. Even though it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, I felt the urgency, and I held my breath for much of the video’s second half. I think it says a lot about our current society, and everything that it means to grow up. I’ve heard others make the comparison, but “The Suburbs” feels like this fucked up generation’s version of the “1979” music video from fourteen years ago.
Combined with Where the Wild Things Are and Jonze’s excellent short film from earlier this year, I’m Here, Jonze seems to be taking a more melancholic approach to his filmmaking recently. All three pieces explore the loss of innocence and the desire to connect, and he does it with a fine balance of optimism and restlessness. I’d even go as far to say that Jonze is putting out his best work yet.