Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

We have come to the second-last track on Arcade Fire’s 2010 album, The Suburbs.

The song begins with a bounding, hopeful-sounding beat, and there is a soft, almost playful affect to Regine Chassagne’s voice, in contrast to the conflict-charged vocals in previous tracks sung by her lover in the story (and partner in real life), Win Butler. But the apparent hopefulness in the tone is somewhat contradicted by the lyrics, which seem to signify her resignation at the continuing oppression by the establishment, while she dreams of something better that is still unseen in the dark (though to be believed, nonetheless):

“They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
These days my life, I feel it has no purpose
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface”

“Sprawl II” follows another interlude by Butler — “Sprawl I (Flatland)” — an adagio movement in which he’s sorrowful, still searching for sense and meaning in the conflict. “II” is like a resolution to “I” as Chassagne sings of her and Butler’s late night meetup… it’s a victory of love over the artless, dominating and intolerant establishment:

“We rode our bikes to the nearest park
Sat under the swings and kissed in the dark
We shield our eyes from the police lights
We run away, but we don’t know why
Black river, your city lights shine
They’re screaming at us, ‘we don’t need your kind’
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights”

(from “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” by Regine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Win Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, Will Butler)

The main verse is repeated around the chorus, faithful to the album’s operatic and theatrical storytelling style. The lovers have made it through the conflict to reach that place of a nighttime kiss in the park, as if to say the suburban war is over and the combatants are coming home to the warm embrace of reunification — or at least, if not an end to the conflict, the two have made peace with the world despite it rejecting them, their soulful individuality and their unconquerable and deep love.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. I hope I’ll see you tomorrow for the conclusion to this series on The Suburbs.

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

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