On February 13, 2010, quintessential Minneapolis pop-punk band The Suburbs played First Avenue to honor the late Bruce Allen, their longtime guitarist and friend. “The Suburbs and Friends: A Musical Tribute to Bruce Allen” was a night of high energy and emotion. MN Original chats with Chan Poling, Hugo Klaers and Chris Osgood about how the band got together and their memories of Bruce Allen, who helped define the look and sound of The Suburbs.
Photo of Bruce Allen used courtesy of Michael Markos.
The Suburbs, an alternative punk rock/funk/new wave band that (true to their name) came out of the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, recorded three major-label full-length albums and 2 EP’s in the 1980s. Brought together in 1977 via introductions by Chris Osgood of the Suicide Commandos, the Suburbs maintained the same lineup throughout their existence. The Suburbs were composed of vocalist and guitarist Blaine John “Beej” Chaney, guitarist Bruce C. Allen, keyboardist Chan Poling, bassist Michael Halliday, and drummer Hugo Klaers. They first started performing in late 1977 and released The Suburbs on the Twin/Tone label (the label’s first release) in early 1978. The record was a nine-song 7-inch red vinyl EP. The band also saw two songs, “Urban Guerrillas” and “Ailerons O.K.”, included on the compilation Big Hits of Mid-America, Volume Three. Allen did the art direction for the compilation.
Through the rest of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, the Suburbs grew into a headline act, frequently playing at Minneapolis’s most influential music clubs including Jay’s Longhorn Bar and most notably First Avenue. During this time, their new wave dance sound, eclectic lyrics, and stage presence gained a following that broke out of the Midwest and reached both coasts. In 1980 Twin/Tone released their first full length LP, In Combo.
They continued to tour, record and play shows all during the 1980’s and into the 90’s but slowed down a bit when band members got married and had kids. Although they didn’t play as much as time wore on, Chan Poling notes, the music they played was too good and the band was too strong to just break up.
Summer of 2002 saw the much-anticipated re-issues of the albums In Combo, Credit In Heaven and Love Is The Law on CD for the first time (issued on the band’s own Beejtar Records – distributed by Universal). In late 2003 the band issued Chemistry Set: The Songs Of The Suburbs 1977 – 1987 (a best of CD with a few bonus tracks and a DVD of their 2002 performances at Minneapolis’ First Avenue).