All But Forgotten: Revisiting Suburbs' Self-Titled 1986 Masterpiece!


As a kid who hailed every word in every issue of Trouser Press as gospel, I knew more about Minneapolis band the Suburbs than many of their own parents before I'd ever heard a note of their music.

Eventually, I grew tired of the local Musicland not carrying any of the band's Twin/Tone albums and began ordering them through the mail.

I began with In Combo, moved on to Credit In Heaven, and then decided to track down their third album (and major label debut) Love is The Law, which had come out the year before.

I was too late, though.

Having never seen a physical copy of the album in a store near me in the first place, by the time I actively wanted one, the band had parted ways with the label and the album had been deleted from the label's catalog.

"Until this rock thing pays off, we moonlight as mannequins."
There was no eBay yet so procuring a deleted title back then meant scouring the cut-out bins at every available opportunity in hopes of seeing it magically reappear in some forgotten record crate in the back of some drug store, head shop, hardware store, or county fair with a big chunk cut out of the cover.

Before I would have any luck in finding a copy, the Suburbs would fall completely off the face of the earth, return on another label in 1986, and then get dropped all over again, only to have THAT album also deleted from the label's catalog before I ever got my hands on a copy of Love Is The Law.

Since then, of course, Love is The Law has been re-issued on CD more than once and is readily available to this day.

Thanks to rampant major label merger-mania, when the band went to remaster their self-titled 1986 album as part of the lengthy process of reissuing their entire back catalog, the major label that, on paper, should have been in possession of the album's master tapes couldn't find them.

Seems the contents of A&M Records' vault had been driven to so many different warehouses around L.A., as the legendary label was sold to Polygram, which was then swallowed up by Universal Music Group, which was then folded into Interscope, leaving many opportunities for the master tapes to get misfiled or fall out of the back of a truck.

"Wait, if we're all here...THEN WHO'S DRIVING THE BUS?"
The band's 2003 compilation, Chemistry Set, featured one song from the album, but in a mix taken from other sources.

As a young man, I had always dreamed of cranking the CD of Suburbs' 1986 magnum opus at top volume as I sped down Pacific Coast Highway in my day-glo Lamborghini with girlfriend Rosario Dawson and, well, none of those things have happened.

Yet.

Here's the thing: it's the only album where the band ever lived up to the proverbial hype that had always been fueled by their fiery live shows.

Produced by Robert Brent (aka Bobby Z from Prince's band, the Revolution), the album quickly lived up to the town's funk pedigree while also boasting some of the band's most accessible writing to date.

Don't get me wrong, I dug the weirder stuff that fleshed out each of their earlier albums, but I was also convinced that semi-hit "Love is The Law" was far from the best this band had to offer, commercially speaking.

To my eyes and ears, the 'Burbs were a band that could match Duran Duran on any front and, by 1986, Duran were down to a single Taylor. Perfect time for A&M to pull out the big guns and turn the Suburbs into stars, I thought.




The great thing about albums like In Combo and Credit In Heaven was that they were just quirky enough to alienate the mainstream kids, thus ensuring that you and the "cool new wave kids" got to keep them all to yourself, but, upon hearing Suburbs, this writer truly feared that I might actually have to share Beej, Chan, Bruce, Michael and Hugo with the world.

Imagine a less idiosyncratic Oingo Boingo circa Dead Man's Party (which went gold) and you'll have a basic idea of the musical terrain covered here.

Featuring an economical eight songs, any song on Suburbs could have been issued as a single and wouldn't have sounded out of place on MTV or Top 40 radio. Of course, I can barely prove any of this to you because, for as amazing as YouTube can be in filling in the blanks for a million other songs, albums or bands that have fallen through the cracks of time, only two songs from the album can be found on the site.



One such clip is actually the music video for "#9", which I had previously not known existed.

Will we die-hard fans of the band hear ANY of the songs from this unjustly buried gem when the Suburbs pulls into town on June 30 for their gig at Bottom Lounge?

This writer will be there, with bells on, but he won't be holding his breath.

Details:

Suburbs at Bottom Lounge, June 30
1375 W. Lake Street, Chicago 60607
Tickets $20

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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