When it comes back to rock bands we’ve loved for many years, a certain truth emerges about our relationship with them.

As members age, as members leave the band and get replaced, as members leave this world and get replaced, we accept and appreciate their continued efforts and attend their concerts, but in the back of our minds we yearn for the good old days when the band was nascent and full of energy and unpredictable.

Consider The Suburbs, who come to town Wednesday as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s victory lap around the state to celebrate its 50th anniversary. They’re easily one of Minnesota’s most influential bands, a band with such hits as the goofily titled “Cows” and “Tape My Wife to the Ceiling,” but also with emotionally and musically complex songs such as “Love is the Law” and “Music For Boys.”

They’ve got a solid catalog of beloved songs on their resume. Yet, when asked about the status of the band, they don’t hesitate to tell you the current lineup is not to be taken lightly — even considering all they’ve songs they’ve composed, all the concerts they’ve played, all the die-hard fans they’ve collected with the old lineup.

“I would like to go on record and say that Chan and I can never recapture what the early Suburbs did,” said drummer Hugo Klaers, “but I think right now we have the best band we’ve ever had. I just think it’s awesome. Everybody goes above and beyond.”

Which is exactly what you’d expect them to say, right? I mean, after all, they’d like you to keep listening, keep giving them a chance, keep thinking The Suburbs are relevant.

One needs to only listen to the new album, though, to understand that Klaers is, well, kind of right. The Suburbs have always been a band that wants to get you moving; while many refer to them as a punk band or a new wave band (and their early stuff was edgy, for sure) their niche has been in the kind of music that makes you want to dance.

This new album, titled Hey Muse!, does that and more. It sort of picks up where their last album, Si Sauvage, left off, but ups the ante on the groove factor.

Take the song “Lovers,” for example. It's a controlled burn. A slow grind. A perfect blend of grindy guitars, soulful drums and perfectly placed horns — the kind of song that, after you hear it, you say to yourself “This song was probably always in them, they just weren’t, you know, in that place.”

“Lost You on the Dance Floor” will make you want to get on one. “Can’t Take You Back” and its rapid beat remind you of the band’s best older work on Credit in Heaven and In Combo. “Butterfly” is the album’s ballad, and you won’t soon forget it. It’s charming and sweet and nothing like you’ve heard from The Suburbs … yet, it is. Guess that’s what you call evolution.

“It’s in the vein of most suburbs stuff — danceable, four on the floor,” Klaers said. “We are going in a new direction, with the departure of (former co-founder Beej Chaney). So, in a sense, you don’t get the typical two-voice sound, but for the most part, it’s not a huge departure.”

So far, people have been pleased.

“People are responding well to it,” Suburbs lead man Chan Poling said. “I got an email from (former Twin Cities DJ and radio host) Kevin Cole in Seattle, he’s spinning it out there. We’re heading to Chicago in a few weeks, the radio down there is all playing it.”

The Suburbs are mentioned often when people discuss the famed Minneapolis music scene of the 1980s. When people talk about Prince, The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum, The Suburbs are right there in that mix.

So it wasn’t surprising when The Current, Minnesota Public Radio’s modern music radio station, booked them for the Mankato show.

“We’ve very honored,” Poling said. “It didn’t really occur to me until I thought about it a while. They’ve been great supporters of us for a long time.”

While MPR’s victory lap will swing through several outstate communities, The Suburbs are only performing in Mankato. And it hasn’t been that long since their last appearance here; they performed at RibFest two summers ago, opening for Cheap Trick.

This time through, you can expect you hear several tracks off the new album, and a bunch of stuff you’re used to hearing.

Poling says there aren’t many songs he won’t play, even the goofy ones that people associate with the band.

“I’ve never been embarrassed by subject matter. I’ll still sing about cows and taping my wife to the ceiling, but I reserve the right to address more serious things, too,” he said.

Having said that, there are a few songs off each record that sort of fall by the wayside in live shows.

“That happens with every record,” he said. “We average about 10 songs per record, and after a few years the cream rises to the top. We find about half the songs just fall away, who knows why that it is.”

Added Klaers, “Part of it comes from listening to tapes of live show. Like listening to ‘Dumb Ass Kids’ (off Si Sauvage) and saying, ‘Hmmm… That just kind of lays there.’”

“Some songs jump out and grab people,” Poling said, “and others don’t do that.”

Funny story: So in October of 1980, when Bruce Springsteen was on tour for his album The River, he played the first of two nights in the the Twin Cities and returned to his hotel. But he was feeling restless, so he went to a nearby Minneapolis bar to play pinball. It happened to be Jay’s Longhorn Bar, a haven for young rock and punk bands. The Replacements cut their teeth there.

Well, as Springsteen is playing pinball in the bar room, he hears some music playing in the adjacent music room. He steps inside to listen, and it’s The Suburbs. The place is rocking, and Springsteen loves it. After the set he tells the band he wants to come back the next night and play with the band after his show.

Rumors fly, the grapevine gets busy and soon, everyone in the Minneapolis scene knows Bruce Springsteen is coming back the next night to play with The Suburbs.

But the excitement got to be too much for the boss, apparently, because he didn’t show.

“Almost,” Klaers said. “Almost ... It was really close.”

Do yourself a favor and get down to the Kato Ballroom Wednesday. You won’t regret it. The Suburbs are worth your time.

Robb Murray is the Features Editor for The Free Press. He can be reached at 344-6386 or rmurray@mankatofreepress.com. Follow Robb on Twitter @FreePressRobb

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