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The Suburbs – Hey Muse! (2017)

posted August 3, 2017, 2:42 pm by JasonHillenburg | Filed Under | comment Comments Off on The Suburbs – Hey Muse! (2017)


The Suburbs initially formed in 1977 and became a popular live act in the burgeoning Minneapolis music scene. Like their near-contemporaries The Replacements, The Suburbs parlayed indie label success into a major label deal, toured extensively, and recorded a number of releases through the eighties that established them as one of the nation’s best New Wave/punk bands of that era. The band fell silent for a number of years, but original members Chan Poling and Hugo Klaers reconstituted the band in 2013 and released a much lauded comeback album entitled Si Sauvage. They recruited some top notch collaborators to round out the band’s lineup and, unlike many older bands reforming in an attempt to regain lost glory of a sort, Poling and Klaers have chosen players who conjure up every bit of the same spirit heard during the band’s salad days while adding to the band’s songwriting in inventive and evocative ways. Their latest release Hey Muse! is an invigorating effort keeping the spirit of the band alive, yet moving forward.

The opener serves notice that the album aims high musically and lyrically. The title track, “Hey Muse!”, features intelligent writing, strident guitars, and a lively pulse staying steady throughout. The guitar textures mix up a variety of sounds – reverb comes through, chiming chords, distant sounding lines, it is clear early on The Suburbs are masters at manipulating their sonic landscapes in service of a mood or idea and sustain such work with singular focus. The incendiary lead guitar near the song’s end is particularly memorable. “Lost You on the Dance Floor” definitely recalls the halcyon eighties and certainly rates as a much more overtly commercial affair than the opener, but The Suburbs never craft empty soundscapes devoid of substance. The same solid songwriting aesthetic powering the first song works just as strongly in favor of this song. The direct and stripped down percussion, the staccato guitar lines, the tasteful touches of Chan Poling’s keyboards all weave together in a pleasing way. It’s one of the album’s best numbers and entertaining as well.

“Je Suis Strange” has big recurring flourishes of guitar that may remind some of a horn section. The mid-tempo pace and those aforementioned rave ups give the song a brassy sort of attitude distinguishing it from the two preceding cuts. There’s some strong horn playing driving “Unified Force” during its introduction, but their presence is felt as strongly once the song settles into its first verse and starts breezing along at a good clip. The guitar remains the prominent instrument in The Suburbs’ arsenal, but their continued willingness to overturn listener’s expectations about punk and New Wave bands gives their creativity an added spark missing from many of their contemporaries and those who followed in their wake. “Butterfly” is one of the album’s more delicate, sensitive moments and it is obvious the band exercised great care in bringing an arrangement together that rendered this song in just the right way. Poling’s vocal here is especially thoughtful and brimming over with musical artistry. Hey Muse! illustrates the band’s continued relevance, diversity, and their considerable songwriting powers in a collection lacking any filler. The Suburbs will win over new converts, hopefully, with this effort and reaffirm the value of their place in American music with those who have followed them this far.


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