Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Suburbs - Hey Muse! (2017)

Written by Shannon Cowden, posted by blog admin

The latest album from Minneapolis New Wave/punk legends The Suburbs marks a new high point in the band’s output finding them recalling the same spirit infusing their youthful recordings rounded off with increased songwriting powers and instrumental prowess. Original members drummer Hugo Klaers and vocalist/keyboardist Chan Poling remain forces to be reckoned with – Klaers has lost none of the spring from his percussive step while Poling’s matured vocal chords enable him to completely inhabit a number of lyrical and musical perspective that might have otherwise proven an ill fit years before. The original members continue working with longtime member saxophonist Max Ray and benefit from the addition of top flight players from the indie scene to complete the current configuration. Their ten song collection Hey Muse! has a generous sampling of the gifts that brought The Suburbs to their initial notoriety while they also show the substantial advances the core members have made as musicians and songwriters over the last thirty nine years since the band first formed.

The opener and title song “Hey Muse” gets things off to a memorable start with some of the album’s best songwriting. Guitar is the predominant instrument here and develops the song in a dramatic way without ever being too heavy handed about it. Poling’s vocal is particularly affecting, but he has the experience to tailor his voice to the arrangement and works with some of the album’s best lyrical material. The second track “Lost You on the Dance Floor” is another one of the album’s highlights. It has a hard hitting and steady, unvarying beat from the outset and it gives the song a firm foundation for everything lain over top. It has a slightly raucous edge, but it’s unquestionably much more commercially minded than many of the songs on Hey Muse! “Je Suis Strange” has a mid tempo strut punctuated with slashing guitar fills and a powerful brass contribution giving the song a little extra bite and color. Despite its relatively restrained tempo, there’s exuberance to this song that immediately engages listeners.

“Lovers” starts off with a grinding stop start tempo and gradually picks up more steam along the way. The unusual percussion gives the song a lot of its flavor, but The Suburbs are willing to get a little more daring with surging horns accompanying the drums.  “Our Love” has some of the same attributes. The unconventional presentation of tempo and rhythm strips much of the melody from this song, but there are meaningful flashes of the band’s talents in that area and its such an intensely colorful and physical piece that you’ll likely forgive them any indulgence. Poling’s vocal has a nicely evocative and theatrical quality here. Poling’s keyboard playing opens the closer “When We Were Young” and a churning arrangement greets listeners when the song begins in earnest. The song receives a somewhat extended introduction before the first vocals come into frame and the arrangement restrains itself accordingly. It’s another engaging musical effort ending Hey Muse! with a resounding exclamation point.

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