Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Suburbs, "Chemistry Set" (1978)


I think the Suburbs are now not so known outside of the Twin Cities of Minnesota. They flared up in the early '80s as a lively DOR act (dance-oriented rock, we were calling it), earned the distinction of a couple of Christgau reviews (an A- and a B-), and tried to find a way to wallow into the mainstream the weird pastiche that animated them of a supper-club Bryan Ferry (in the person of dapper pianist and tux-wearer Chan Poling) welded at the hip to a streaming-sweat Iggy Pop (in the person of Blaine John "Beej" Chaney, who often appeared in need of diapering). Eventually they were lost in the mid-'80s hoopla of Prince, the Replacements, and all that. Interestingly (or not) the Suburbs hailed from the suburbs where I grew up, in and around Hopkins and Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis. I went to high school with guitarist Bruce Allen (who died in 2009) and bassist Michael Halliday. Chan and Beej and I think drummer Hugo Klaers went to high school in another school district an easy bike ride from where I grew up. The nine-song 7-inch EP that climaxes with "Chemistry Set," The Suburbs, was the first-ever release by the indie label Twin/Tone in 1978. It was the band's showstopper for a long time, primitive, bone-headed, roaring simplicity, in all of 1:11. "I'm into chemistry and that's about it" is the lyric. Repeat as directed. Lazy blogger takes the easy way out of making and posting a YouTube of the song, found now on an excellent 2003 compilation, Chemistry Set, along with more of their greats, surprisingly many of which actually still are great (and some of which we will be getting to by and by). Instead, this time, I found a video from their performance at the Minneapolis M-80 festival in September 1979. Two points: 1) the lyric as noted above (it's not always intelligible in this version), and 2) ... I was there.

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