Song of the Day #1,697: ‘City With No Children’ – Arcade Fire

suburbsI’m sure my one loyal reader — who is not a big fan of Arcade Fire — is groaning right now, but today begins week two of my song-by-song exploration of the band’s Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs.

Track six, ‘City With No Children,’ mines similar territory as the first five tracks (not surprisingly… this is a concept album, after all): nostalgia, regret, the soullessness of modern society.

Songwriter Win Butler quotes George Orwell’s 1984 in the line “never trust a millionaire quoting the Sermon on the Mount,” a line that could easily be applied to many of Butler’s peers in the music industry.

But Butler says this song is about places he’s lived that seem to be populated entirely by people in their 30s who are concerned only with fitting in, buying the right things, wearing the right things and so on.

I suspect that is the “world war” he alludes to at the beginning of the song — not an actual skirmish but a war between an increasingly sterile society and the soul of modern man.

The summer that I broke my arm
I waited for your letter
I have no feeling for you now
Now that I know you better

I wish that I could have loved you then
Before our age was through
And before a world war does with us
Whatever it will do

Dreamt I drove home to Houston
On a highway that was underground
There was no light that we could see
As we listened to the sound of the engine failing

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground
The rain can’t get you wet
Do you think your righteousness
Can pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by and by
As I hide inside
Of my private prison

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,697: ‘City With No Children’ – Arcade Fire

  1. Dana says:

    Your one loyal reader must first point out that the video link is for a different song, so my continued indifference toward this band will have to wait.😄

  2. Clay says:

    How embarrassing! Fixed now.

  3. Dana says:

    Yeah, this one isn’t doing much for me either. In fact, I liked the song you had mistakenly put here originally better on my second inadvertent listening to it.

    I’m not sure how much this band is compared to U2 but I hear similarities in tone and musical style, which may explain both the critics’ love affair with this band and my general indifference.

  4. Clay says:

    They are most often compared to both U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen is their biggest stated influence, and he once joined them onstage during one of their concerts as a surprise (for the audience, at least). This album doesn’t have as many Springsteen nods as the others I’ve heard.

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