Friday, May 9, 2014

Did Arcade Fire's art sample a house on Ramada Drive?

Back in 2010 when I first saw the album cover for Arcade Fire's critically-acclaimed album The Suburbs, my jaw hit the floor.
It took only a fraction of a second for me to realize that I'd seen that house somewhere before, but it took me about two painful weeks to zero in on its location.  It was one of those mysteries that nagged in the back of my mind until I finally figured it out.   
It's on Ramada Drive in Clear Lake, although for the privacy of the owners, I won't give the address.

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps. 
It's not necessarily that the house literally looks like the album cover feature for feature, but moreso that it feels the same.  Of course, it's convenient that both are shown as painted the exact same unusual shade of "rancher red", but back when I first saw that house in the mid-1980's, I believe there might have indeed been a boat-sized sedan parked in its side yard (the house is unusual for Clear Lake in having lateral access to an integrated garage).  The art work doesn't show a garage, but it shows a sedan in an otherwise-unlikely position.  
It's a provocative suggestion that the two might be related because Clear Lake City was Houston's first master-planned suburban community, so there's a certain nexus of precedent between Clear Lake and the album.

Boat-sized sedan (or perhaps a station wagon) parked in front of a brand spanking new rancher as shown in a promotional brochure reported to have been produced in 1965.  Every once in a while this eerie thing circulates anew on the internet (e.g., this HAIF reference), but I can't find a live reference for it right now.  I believe photo credit should go to Friendswood Development Company (as it was owned in its original incarnation by Exxon), but I'm not certain.  
More purely-speculative forensics:  The Suburbs was inspired by band members Win and William Butlers' upbringing in The Woodlands, but that palm tree on the album cover does not scream "Woodlands" to me.  I've been to that mysterious, far-off place called The Woodlands and they do indeed prefer a lofty forest canopy feel there, just as the name suggests.  But in coastal Clear Lake, palm trees have historically been de rigueur, especially during the era referenced by the art.  Drive around "old Clear Lake" and you'll see classic examples of palms that seemed like a good suburban planting idea at the time (i.e., several decades ago), but which have since morphed into rather shaggy imposing behemoths quite similar to the one depicted in the art work.

We'll probably never know whether art has intentionally or just accidentally imitated life here, but one thing we do know for sure is that The Suburbs is unmatched in its artistic achievement.  This particular passage neatly sums up why.
Screengrabbed from this review by The Hipster Conservative
The Suburbs won Grammy Album of the Year on February 13, 2011.  I started this blog about a month before that.  My tag line references the same realizations that are explored by the album's concept.  We spend the majority of our time and most of our money on our suburban lifestyles.  Shouldn't our experiences here be just as deep as the pockets needed to fund them?  They are - but only if we are smart enough to consciously realize it instead of falling victim to shallow surface messages.   
The suburbs - not as lame and formulaic as often depicted.

Screengrabbed from the 1965 Friendswood Development Company brochure (I think).  

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.