Saturday, December 13, 2008

Suburban Lawns

Compartmentalizing is the only way to fathom the outside world.  

Mom is a Spawn Point.  Dad is a Seed Pouch.
Hippies were Hygiene Imbalanced.  Kids are Genetic Carriers.
Wives are Pornography Substitutes.  Husbands are Stunted Children.
I am an Idiot.  

You get the picture. 

Genre-tagging is even better.  
Just ask every record reviewer and insecure fan out there.  They'll tell you.

genre |ˈzh änrə|
a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

tag |tag|
a label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information.

Suburban Lawns (1978-83), eccentric No... er, New Wave Avant Art Post Punk Rockers from Long Beach, California, caused a minor splash in 1979-80 with their quirky 'Gidget Goes to Hell' single.  Featured on Saturday Night Live and Night Flight during the early 80s - and name-checked by noted zither picker Frank Appaz as the only punk single of note, the band was strangely unable to capitalize on the golden goose exposure.  

Such is the fickle nature of the entertainment beast.  

- (L-R) Vex Billingsgate (bass), Su Tissue (vocals), John Gleur (guitar), c.1981

Perhaps lead singer Su Tissue's Nico-friendly Ice Princess stage presence was too jagged for the 80s kids to dance to.  Perhaps featuring Su Tissue straight-through, rather than having her sharing vocal duties with guitarist Frankie Ennui and bassist Vix Billingsgate, would have sharpened the hook of the gimmick.  Perhaps the band became too wedged in the genre cracks for record executives and their marketing departments to swallow; Were they an Art Band? Wacky New Wavers?  Punks?
They sound new wave, Bob.  
Kids seem to buy new wave.  It's the future.
I don't know, Don.  How many units did Devo push last month?
And what's with the skirt?  Is she German, or something?
German doesn't sell.

- Drawing of Su Tissue by Mark Vallen (pencil), Slash Magazine 1979 

Were I to venture a guess, I would say they were too schizo for public consumption.  Their music veered all over the new wave herding range - jumping from Devoesqe to X-Ray Spexish to shades of The Specials' ska... with Tissue supplied vocals that combined Yoko Ono warbles, Ari Up hiccups, and Nina Hagen pronunciations.  

And that's just the first album.  

(Look Ma, I'm a record reviewer!!)    

In other words, they were great.

I'm a Janitor. Oh my genitals. Oh my genitals. I'm a Janitor.

All action is reaction. Expansion. Contraction.
Man the manipulator.

Underwater. Does it matter? Antimatter. Nuclear Reactor...
Boom boom boom boom.

I guess everything is irrelative.

- Janitor

After the 80's Compilation gravestone Gidget Goes to Hell was planted, the band would self-release another single, 'Janitor' b/w 'Protection' (Suburban Industrial #02, 1980), before signing with I.R.S. Records for a full-length self-titled LP, 'Suburban Lawns' (IRS #SP70024, 1981), and a swan-song EP, 'Baby' (IRS #70503, 1983).

During the hiatus between 'Suburban Lawns' and 'Baby', Su Tissue recorded an excellent piano & voice solo EP in 1982, Salon De Musique.  

To further confuse the issue, Tissue's solo work is as far out (and different) than anything the Suburban Lawns recorded.  It is also just as good.   

And that is where the vinyl trail goes cold.  

- Gidget Goes to Hell/My Boyfriend 7" single, Suburban Industrial #01, 1979

A highly recommended band.  It is very rare when a musician's eclecticism pays off.  Suburban Lawns are one of the few.  Their work is at first confounding - but once you allow it to sink in, you'll soon find yourself bopping in appreciation.  

I would suggest going through their discography in chronological order, if only to chart their progression as artists.  But you can not go wrong either way.  

At the very least, perhaps you'll find them worthy enough to share with your friends.  

Links of Interest:

* Gidget Goes to Hell 7" single - New Wave Tunes Blog
(Above albums courtesy of the Sound Opinions message board)


  1. Meh, I think you're exaggerating this band's depth and originality. They were a joke band, a bunch of druggy suburban kids having a good time in the garage, jumping on board the New Wave bandwagon and trying a little too hard to be weird. They didn't have any ideas of their own; they were imitators, not trailblazers. Take some Devo, step into the B-52s' turf with Flying Saucer Surfari, mix in a little Nina Hagen, and you basically have their sound. The best thing about them was the bizarre expression permanently plastered on Su Tissue's face (was it an act or did she have a disorder?). The problem with "zany" bands like these is that once the gimmick wears off, there's nothing left that's of enduring value.

  2. I appreciate the comment, Igor. And I do agree with you.

    Were the Suburban Lawns culturally significant? Not at all.
    Were they one of the New Wave elite? Hardly.

    But I thought they were an interesting band. And, heck... they offered the Minutemen practice space, from what I understand: How bad could they be?

  3. Igor: fortunately, the majority do not share your limited views. Suburban Lawns rocked and were extremely influential on countless bands, New Wave and otherwise, that came after (their 1st two singles and 1st album, NOT the rushed EP that basically killed them). People still listen to and love them to this day. I, being one of them. And, the date in which you posted is more than appropriate and poetically significant for your traji-comic comment. Eric: your response to Igor's pseudo-intellectual, pathetically "superior" post is actually embarrassing to read and *ss-kissing in the extreme.

    1. I apologize for not coming across as more of a 'my way or suck my dick' type of guy, Anonymous. While I was simply happy that Igor (or anyone) bothered to comment on something I wrote, I should have stuck more to the internet touch guy routine.

      But I do appreciate you showing me the way. Bravo.