Reviews

Suburban Lawns Suburban Lawns LP reissue

Outside of DEVO, is there any band that has provided more raw material for this millennium’s reboot of oddball new wave than SUBURBAN LAWNS? And yet, this is somehow the first true resurrection of the lone LAWNS full-length since its original release in 1981—I’m not counting that gimmicky 2015 Futurismo pressing with garish splattered vinyl, swapped-out cover art, and 1983’s Baby EP tacked on, and neither should you. Obviously, “Janitor” has been a secret handshake between art kids infiltrating punk for a solid four decades now (I had a teenage freshman literally yell play ‘Janitor’! at me a few years ago while I was DJing at the art school where I work and it warmed my heart), with its halting, spring-loaded rhythm, some truly surreal lyrical juxtapositions, and Su Tissue’s effortless swing from deadpan monotone to exaggerated cartoonish squeals in a two-and-a-half minute display of sonic dada. Does the whole LP reach that same flipped-out high? Controversial opinion, but not exactly—I could do without Vex Billingsgate’s kitschy “lounge singer on ludes” croon in “Not Allowed” (the eternal question: if you had Su Tissue as a vocalist in your band, why would you let anyone else get in front of a mic?), or the detour into ska with “Mom and Dad and God,” to point two very specific fingers. But some of the deep cuts here are really just as weird and wonderful as the sainted “Janitor,” like the stop/start, one-chord post-punk austerity of “Unable,” or “Intellectual Rock” doing wound-up nerd-wave like a West Coast iteration of DOW JONES AND THE INDUSTRIALS, or how the band’s L.A. roots clearly show through on the Dangerhouse-ish duet “Anything” (with Su at her most vocally Betty Boop). A perfectly imperfect classic; here’s to hoping that teenage art school students will still be yelling for “Janitor” in another 40 years.