The Suburbs won’t release Hey Muse! till June 23, but a private party got to hear the whole new album in the Turf Club’s basement Clown Lounge last night. Here are our first impressions.
The title track kicks off the album with driving drums and bass, busy guitar work, and Chan Poling's distinctive croon. It’s like an old friend that you never knew you missed as much as you do. Poling’s voice is instantly recognizable, but it’s become more weathered and worldly, and the atmospheric moodiness that’s been part of the Suburbs’ sound since the ‘80s is pushed to the forefront on Hey Muse!
The Suburbs are insistent, daring you to keep your feet still, so it’s always interesting when they slow things down, like on “Lovers,” which features skronky keys and horns, adds cool background vocals, and offers the powerful sentiment “We could be lovers, but so much more.”
Then the tempo notches back up with “Can’t Take You Back.” Like most of Hey Muse!, there is so much happening in the corners of the song: guitars fade in and out, and Poling’s keys stab at you in unexpected ways, and the horns push it along.
When the band gets a little (clown?) lounge-y on “Our Love,” it’ll make you smile. Poling’s vocals are a bit detached, and it fits the convulsive nature of this… ballad? It’s a strange and welcome departure, and I’m pretty sure there’s a squeaky toy somewhere in the background.
But “Cupid” might be the album’s stealth hit. It is a rock solid meditation on love, and you have problems if it doesn’t get your head bobbing. Seriously, get yourself checked out.
Hey Muse! ends, perhaps appropriately, with “When We Were Young.” An extended opening makes you think we have another ballad on our hands, but 40 seconds in come some surprisingly tough guitar lines and an almost combative rhythm. “When we were boys, we fell in love with the loudest noise,” Poling sings, and he’s reminiscing, for all the good and ill that can bring. This feels about someone, though who that someone is remains up to the listener.
The Suburbs recognize and embrace their past while still energetically moving forward. The beats, the horns, and the sound that fans have been dancing to for 37 odd years are still there, but they darken the corners a bit on Hey Muse! and the band seems firmly planted in the now.
Of course, everything that happens in the Clown Lounge feels vaguely illicit, so the dimness, the clown theme, and the free beer (thank you, Summit) gave the new Suburbs’ music a little nostalgic sleaze.
As with most music, though, Hey Muse! sounds better played live. (Duh.) Upstairs in the Turf later last night, songs like “Hey Muse!” and “Lost You on the Dance Floor” were beefier and noisier when the band performed them. And the classics were great as always: “Cows,” “Music for Boys,” and “Love is the Law” all hit your heart and feet in all the right places.
“The greatest thing about my job are the pretty girls bringing booze,” Poling remarked after being handed a drink from the crowd.
As always, it bears repeating that drummer Hugo Klaers is an animal. He bashes the shit out of his green kit, and muscles up the songs while guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker coaxes otherworldly noise out of his set up.
The Suburbs ended their encore with Klaers singing “Baby Heartbeat,” a guest drumming, and the crowd bouncing along like a dance party scene from a John Hughes movie that was never made. The past was definitely present, but the future is now for the Suburbs.