Unlike Arcade Fire, he’s not looking to make a grand statement about the ambivalences of the suburbs, nor is he mocking them, like Fountains of Wayne. Instead he accepts the reality of what it was like to grow up there. Sure, it’s boring, potentially soul-crushing (to the point where, in the title track, a neighbor dying in Hawaii seems more romantic than working at Sears), and the focal point is a shopping center named after one of the defining American literary voices. But it wasn’t a bad way to go, and it all came with the endless optimism that comes from growing up comfortably middle-class and being told you can be anything if you put your mind to it.
Bill's new album Walt Whitman Mall is out now.