Personal Soundtrack

29 Mar

The Song

Sprawl II Remix by Soulwax  [Radio Rip]


Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire


Easily one of the best albums of the past several years, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” has that rare timeless feel to it.  The musicianship behind the songs is incredible, and the entire album holds up just as well on the hundreth listen as it did on the first.  “The Suburbs” seems fated to enter the ‘essential’ albums canon, so that decades from now it can be pointed to as a well-crafted representation of the vague sense of dread and turmoil that marked life in 2010.  The excellent songwriting has a lot to do with the timeless feel of “The Suburbs,” especially with regards to the issues tackled in the lyrics.  Modern American life in the titular suburbs is the main focus of the album, and the lack of fulfillment coupled with a burning desire to just get out are recurring themes.

One of the standout tracks on The Suburbs is “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.  The title refers to the overwhelming sprawl of the suburbs and the lyrics speak of life and despair in that environment over moody synthesizers.  The electronic element of “Sprawl II” opens it up to remix potential more than any other track, and DJ duo Soulwax have capitalized on that potential with an excellent re-working of the song.

Soulwax take the throbbing bass underlying the original “Sprawl II” and bring it out to forefront, tweaking and manipulating it into a funky, off-kilter beat that gets progressively dirtier as the track progresses.  Adding in what sounds like someone pounding away on a bucket fashioned into a drum, the remix has a high energy level while maintaining the moody darkness of the original.  The theme of ‘living in the sprawl’ remains intact with the new track.   Soulwax does the rare thing with a remix – creating an excellent new song that breathes on its own, while at the same time supplementing and celebrating the spirit of the original song.

The Activity

It’s another weekend morning in the suburb community you’ve called your home for the past eight years.  You moved out here pretty soon after you got married, and have now settled into the straight-shooting life of someone with a nice house, two kids, a dog, and a minivan.  You’re driving a pack of young soccer players to practice in said minivan today, fulfilling your duties as doting Soccer Parent.  One of the players is your 8-year old, who lately has been displaying an alarming tendency to be an entitled, well, brat.

The urban lifestyle of your earlier years has largely blurred into a hazy memory at this point, but there’s still some remnants of your free-spirited side that have been simmering below your well-polished demeanor for quite some time now.  The past few months in particular have been marked with constant reminders of the turbulent yet satisfying life you used to lead in that cramped loft downtown.  Ever since you and the spouse stumbled upon that rock concert at the sweaty, claustrophobic club you thought was a trendy new restaurant, you’ve been feeling more and more restless.  Your spouse quickly dismissed the raucous noise as a novelty, but you’ve quietly been out there a few times since that night, just to drink some cheap beer and let out some energy on the dance floor.  And that little rebellion has started to seep into your mindset as you go about your day in the suburbs.

In fact, this morning you’ve been feeling particularly restless, and the soccer crew is not helping things.  As you pull up to the expansive grass field, your little All-Star is the last one to disembark through the sliding door.  On his way out, he turns to you and says he doesn’t want you driving his friends anymore because everything about you is embarrassing.  And he wants the Grape Capri-Suns ready after practice, because, as he’s said Ten Times, he doesn’t drink this Cherry shit.

As the slow whir of the automatic door punctuates this little exit speech, something inside you just kind of boils over.  In a strange state of calm, you reach for the radio dial and tune to your local indie station.  A dirty little beat comes on, and you crank the volume.  With the windows down and tunes blasting out, you slowly roll the van past the rest of the parents waiting idly in their cars.  You make eye contact with most of them, and an unspoken understanding is shared with some who know how you feel.  These ones fall in line behind your vehicle as you take off into the generic suburb streets.

Riding slow, bumping dance beats, and giving the Eye to anyone who looks your way, you make your way to the parking lot of the SuperMall.  Several other like-minded individuals have joined your procession along the way, and as a particularly great song comes over the speakers, you start circling the parking lot, eventually creating a gleaming ring of vans and CRVs that can hold an epic dance party.  Scared passersby in matching khakis look on as you and the rest of your new crew break it down and let some stress out.  Because someone’s got to do it.


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