Song of the Day: The Suburbs – Hey Muse!

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Hey Muse!” by The Suburbs from Hey Muse!, out now on Suburbs Music.

The Suburbs – Hey Muse! (MP3)

Forty years is a long time to do anything, and an even longer time to play in a band. Case in point? The Suburbs. Over the last decade, the legendary Minneapolis new wave unit, who formed in in 1977, lost most of their core lineup. Guitarist Bruce Allen died an untimely death in 2009, bassist Michael Halliday left soon thereafter due to arthritis, and founding member Beej Chaney stepped away from the band in 2014, citing exhaustion and personal issues. And yet the band carried on, recruiting old friends and fresh talent alike for their ninth studio release, Hey Muse!

The album’s title track both acknowledges and resists that struggle to find joy in the long haul of a creative life. It’s a polished pop prayer for inspiration, which ‘Burbs keyboard-playing captain Chan Poling sings with the rough-around-the-edges sorrow of a man who has, as the song goes, “traveled far around this big old world,” in a long, storied, and ultimately rewarding career of music making.

A propulsive and funky bass line kickstarts the song. Maracas rattle. For a moment, the song seems destined for the dancefloor. Then, the beat shifts, a spy movie-style guitar enters, cloaked in reverb, and the mood darkens. “Hey Muse,” Poling begins gruffly, less praising a deity for creative energy than meeting up with an ex to get his stuff back. “Tell me the story of a girl / Teach me to sing and make it happy,” he intones. “Because I’m sick of the sorrows of this world.” The subtle rasp in his voice matches the fatigue of the lyrics. He’s tired of asking for inspiration, but not ready to give up yet. In the second verse, he repeats his gruff greeting and asks for a story about a boy. Bolstered by steady guitar vamping, which sneaks in at the beginning of the verse, the singer’s resolve to find joy amidst struggle deepens. You still hear world-weariness in his voice, but this time, that’s not all. “Teach me to sing and make it hopeful,” Poling requests. “I’m determined to find his joy.” As he declares his intention, the guitar rises, slowly raising the stakes. You wonder, will the singer reach his goal? With a quick fill and the crash of Klaers’ cymbal, the song bursts open to a euphoric, “whoa-oh”-filled chorus. It’s a brief release–the first chorus lasts just a few measures–but well worth the wait. Muse or no muse, the Suburbs will find their joy yet.

Unless you’re vacationing in the Twin Cities, the Suburbs aren’t playing nearby anytime soon, but feel free to check the band’s website and facebook page for updates. In the meantime, enjoy the official video for “Hey Muse!” below.

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One Comment

  1. coz
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a ‘burbs’ fan since those hot nights at Jay’s Longhorn in Mpls. I’ve been a Chan fan since a 15 year old played keyboards with a band named Approaching Time. Poling has reinvented himself, the music, and The Suburbs several times. Each time is more interesting and evolved than the last.

    How do we get the band to Seattle, or charter a flight to Minneapolis to rock with the ‘burbs?’

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