We Used to Wait

It’s time for another selection from The Suburbs by Arcade Fire.

“We Used to Wait” is the 13th track on the album. The song continues the theme of waiting that comes in on “Suburban War,” and I interpret this as similar to the often painful waiting that goes on in any conflict.

At the Winnipeg concert for The Suburbs, the backdrop on the stage became a blotter where intricately-formed handwriting appeared as if someone was actually writing a letter in real time. In the context of war and other conflicts, this struck me as representing the strong desire to keep in touch with loved ones; writing a letter in wartime and mailing it, then waiting and hoping for long, anxious and doubtful weeks and months for responses (“sometimes they never came“). All one could control was the writing and sending of the letter… what a time that must have been for our ancestors, and how fortunate are we, mostly immune from that type of emotional torment.

While much less protracted in the waiting, the desire to be in touch has been also been something essential during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdown and other public health directives put distance between us and the ones we cherish. In some cases, we are still limited in ability to be in direct contact, and this may worsen in the autumn when the healthcare implications of seasonal influenza butt up against supports for health in the ongoing pandemic. But we’re fortunate to have what one dear friend calls “sacred technology from the earth” when speaking of his computer screen which brings us together via the imperfect magic of Zoom and other such programs.

A staccato keyboard sets an anxious tone for the song, again reminding us of life in conflict in the suburbs. The piece, in all its urgency, ends with the keyboard and sound effects fading, resembling the sound of a train trundling off into the distance (maybe carrying letters to those off in conflict).

The song and the track that follows it, “Sprawl I (Flatland),” form something of an interlude between parts like the driving, allegro-like beat of “Month of May” (“make a record in the month of May” — as if doing so is an act of collective defiance with the kids who “are still standing with their arms folded tight“) and the determination of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” with a slightly lighter beat that takes us through to the concluding tracks.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

This is the audio for the song from Arcade Fire’s official YouTube channel. Please remember to click on “thumbs-up” on if the video if you appreciated the artists’ work.

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