James Chance_Artist Bio

If one band encapsulated the eccentricity present in the post 70′s Southern Californian New Wave, then surely that band was the SUBURBAN LAWNS. To some, their legacy stands as a mental monument to those nights of staying up late with nothing but a can of Tab and a bag of Frito’s to chaperone the viewing of the classic zeitgeist cable show – New Wave Theatre. To others they serve as a flickering flame that although failed to set alight to the history books, brought so many expansive musical idiosyncrasies to a fertile yet sometimes repetitive scene with their unique brand of polyrhythmic new wave art punk.

Under amusing pseudonyms, Vex Billingsgate, Frank Ennui, John McBurney, Chuck Roast and Su Tissue originally went through several monikers, including The Fabulons and Art Attack, before the Long Beach quintet arrived at the intrinsic SUBURBAN LAWNS. It was in 1979 they released their first single ‘Gidget Goes to Hell’, and it wasn’t long before word got out when Academy Award winning director Jonathan Demme (The Silence Of The Lambs) shot their promo video, airing on alternative TV show of the moment Saturday Night Live.

Hot on the heels followed their classic and long out of print 1980 S/T album on the legendary I.R.S. records, the label also responsible for other emerging new wave go-to bands of the day The Go-Go’s and Oingo Boingo. Of course, the album notoriously features the bands big radio hitter ‘Janitor’, where Su relays those famous words “I’m a janitor, oh my genitals”, in one of many justifications as to why the LP is something of a lost masterpiece with it’s tales of computer dating, religion vs. superficiality and alien spotting excursions, a cocktail of unique subject matter filtered through equally unique musical characteristics. Their growing notoriety encapsulated by a SUBURBAN LAWNS poster on a bedroom wall in the archetypical 80′s teen movie Fast Times At Ridgement High (1984).

Yet despite the LP doing well in California, by 1983 things were all but over, the band began recording a follow-up album but it only made it to EP stage. The Baby EP stands a more progressive work, a glimpse into what could have been had they continued. The noted musical shades of British acts such as The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins signified that mainstream success could have been just around the corner.

The cultdom that still surrounds the band can surely be traced in part to the persona of enigmatic vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Su Tissue, her presence in many ways marked them as the new introverted Blondie. Her adorable iconic stylings, hair pinned locks, knickerbockers and aprons seemed to channel the 50′s/60′s in a far more subversive fashion than that of say The B-52′s, and thus represent a slightly more of kilter and aloof ideology. It is this approach that perhaps made her the perfect anti pin-up decades before ‘geek chic’ even became a term. After SUBURBAN LAWNS split Su recorded a solo piano album but her final foray into the public consciousness would be the role of Peggy Dillman in the Jonathan Demme directed comedy masterpiece Something Wild (1986) opposite Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels, and Ray Liotta. Although the movie was not recognised as such, author Bret Easton Ellis (Less than Zero, American Psycho) considers it to be a defining film of the decade, perhaps unfairly neglected in exactly the same way SUBURBAN LAWNS were.

Nevertheless, SUBURBAN LAWNS recorded output has stayed unbelievably fresh, an important snapshot of everything new wave was supposed to be: subversive, artistic, humorous and aligned to the timeless sensibilities of pop.


SUBURBAN LAWNS > ‘Janitor’ from S/T