The 'Burbs are back

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2013 - 4:32 PM

After two deaths, one divorce and 27 years, Minnesota’s beloved Suburbs have finally made a new album. They say it’s just the beginning.

Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson are reuniting as the Replacements. Soul Asylum is touring without co-founder Danny Murphy. And the Suburbs are releasing a new album.

Who would have predicted these 2013 headlines for three kingpins of the 1980s Twin Cities rock scene? But the last one is the biggest surprise.

“Never in a million years did I think we’d make another album,” said Suburbs singer/guitarist Beej Chaney.

“No, absolutely not,” said Suburbs drummer Hugo Klaers in a separate interview.

Well, there was one believer in the band, which broke up in 1987 and has intermittently reunited since 1992.

“I always call the New Standards my age-appropriate band,” said Suburbs singer/keyboardist Chan Poling, 55, referring to his lounge-pop trio. “But always in the back of my mind I knew I had another rock record in me. Who would I get to play? I thought I’d call some all-stars. Then the more I thought: What’s the best rock band that I know? I already have it.”

So, 27 years after the Suburbs made their last studio album, the quintet will release a new album, the fan-funded “Si Sauvage,” on Tuesday, then play the State Fair Grandstand next Friday.

This is not a vintage Suburbs album, on which nervy new wave collided with disco and jazz, and Poling and Chaney sang about cows, chemistry and cigarettes in backward.

“This is a mature album for us,” said Chaney. “Chan’s got his Bryan Ferry thing down pat” — a nod to the ever-stylish Roxy Music frontman who long has been a Poling inspiration.

“It’s a little more sophisticated, a little more grown up,” agreed Poling, looking suitably Lake Minnetonka suburban over lunch in his starched dress shirt and shorts with a nautical pattern. “You’re not going to just have the naive punk-rock sound that we had. ”

Where’s Beej?

Fans may hear “Si Sauvage” and wonder: “Where’s Beej?”

Indeed, this is a Poling-dominated album, with Chaney — the crazed frontman who always was the life of a Suburbs party — taking lead vocals on only one song.

A couple of years ago, Chaney went through a traumatic divorce from a member of Minnesota’s wealthy Cargill family. As he explained in an hourlong phone call last week from Los Angeles, where he has lived since 1990, he switched from a rarefied lifestyle of flying to Europe to view an art exhibit to being a middle-class, bike-riding “hippie songwriter.”

That transition involved some trying times, often in public. Chaney seemed to be lost at reunion concerts in recent years.

“After giving depositions representing millions of dollars, I’d have to get on a plane the next morning, hardly digesting what just happened in court, and I had to play and I’d hardly rehearsed,” said Chaney, 56, who had to sell his historic Shangri-La studio in Malibu for an asking price of $3 million in 2011. “I’ll admit I was on medication for anxiety. So I was a little more careful. I wasn’t drinking. I was not a happy camper. I was an out-of-the-loop Suburb for a while.”

He spoke matter-of-factly, with sobering insight but obvious newfound enthusiasm.

“I had to relearn to be a Suburb again,” he continued. “The old Beej is getting stronger and stronger. And life is getting better and better. Being in the Suburbs has helped tremendously. The local response and support of the Suburbs has lifted my spirits 1,000 percent.”

  • related content

  • The Suburbs in 1983 after they signed to Mercury/Polygram Records. From left, Chan Poling, Hugo Klaers, Beej Chaney, Bruce Allen and Michael Halliday.

  • The Suburbs, from left: Chan Poling, Beej Chaney (in blindfold), Hugo Klaers and new members Steve Price and Steve Brantseg.

  • Beej Chaney has just one song on the new Suburbs album, but is open to collaborating more with Chan Poling, left, if there’s a next one.

  • THE SUBURBS

    New album: “Si Sauvage,” out next Tuesday.

    In concert: 5 p.m. Aug. 30 at State Fair Grandstand with Trampled by Turtles, Mason Jennings, P.O.S. and the Chalice. $28.

    Coming gigs: For info, go to TheSuburbsBand.com.

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