Win and Will Butler grew up in the Woodlands, a sprawling suburb of Houston. Regine Chassagne grew up poor, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, in a suburb of Montreal. During what is usually a chaotic and restless time of their lives, kids move to cities in their twenties, and once they want children and property and grass, they often move back to the suburbs from which they came.
I grew up in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, and was fundamentally at odds with the Long Island and Upstate kids. They couldn’t possibly be living a real life. I may have always believed this had I stayed in New York City, but I didn’t. I left.
At a show in the Woodlands in 2010, Win Butler told his hometown audience before performing the first song from their then-new album, The Suburbs, “This is a song about leaving your hometown, then coming back, and leaving again.”
Amore di campanile, translated literally from Italian, means love for the bell tower. The colloquial meaning, though, is what one feels for the place where they were born. The Suburbs is an album of repetitions, themes and phrases that cycle through the songs, many introduced in the title track: moving past the feeling, suburban war, take your mother’s keys, we’re leaving. Win Butler has said of the album, “It is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs—it’s a letter from the suburbs.”
Sometimes it feels like our bodies are full of holes, some holes so deep there’s no bottom and no end. We try to fill the holes with whatever we can—hope, God, food, rage, drugs, music—because the emptiness is almost unbearable. As teenagers we learn that singing along to loud music will probably feel good until the day we die, especially if it’s music that fills the car or the bedroom or the stadium.
The central feeling of the teenage years—big feelings, big sounds, dramatic highs and lows, ...