I know music isn’t a common topic for our blog, but occasionally worlds collide and we get a look at public policy through the lens of pop culture. Two things caught my ear recently—one a rallying cry to get the next generation on board with electric vehicles, and the other a love/hate tribute to sustainability’s arch-nemesis: sprawl.

First off, as Grist notes, They Might Be Giants have a new song and video out called “Electric Car.” Ashley Braun rightly notes, “as a general…rule, songs about environmental issues are cringeworthy.” Now, I’m not going to say this song didn’t get under my skin a little. But as far as kids’ songs go, it’s not half bad. And the music video is actually pretty cool. Check out the video below the fold:

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  • Next up, Arcade Fire’s new album, The Suburbs. What first got me was their new music video. Utilizing Google Street View, you plug in the address of the house you grew up in, and shots of that neighborhood are integrated into the video. While it’s not perfect, it’s a very cool notion.

    But that’s just the start.

    The whole album struck a chord because it’s a product of people—like me—who were raised in the 80s suburbs. While it scorns sprawl (I love the lines: First they built the road, then they built the town/That’s why we’re still driving round and round), it admits a certain nostalgia for the houses we grew up in and the streets where we played. It really zeroes in on the love/hate relationship I have with the ‘burbs.

    The album paints a picture of crumbling suburbs—with endless sprawl and dead shopping malls—contrasted by the bright and loud city. It’s not really a condemnation of either, but more of a melancholy tribute to the stomping grounds of a whole generation—if not an anthem to a lost vision of the American dream where everyone has a back yard and a gang of kids to play with in the cul-de-sac.

    Putting wistfulness for lost childhoods aside, The Suburbs—and Roger’s recent post on the decline of McMansions—raises a question for me. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic here, but as we move toward more compact, accessible communities (complete with electric cars, of course), what will become of the physical remnants of sprawl?