Chan Poling of The Suburbs recommends David Bowie (and a bunch of other artists)

Chan Poling and David Bowie

Chan Poling (l) and David Bowie (r)

Chan Poling’s artist recommendation: “Hey folks, Chan Poling here. You may know me from my bands The Suburbs and/or The New Standards and as a composer of songs for the theater and what have you. I’m pleased and honored to be among the artists asked to post here on Rock Torch.

Now, if I’m not mistaken (and I often am) my purpose here is to talk about and recommend an artist or band that I admire and who has influenced me. A band so great I am compelled to share their merits and delights. A sharing of musical passions, a “passing of the torch” as it were. Hence the name of this site: Rock Torch!

We used to play this game more earnestly in high school, when all that mattered was “who you dug.” If your friends didn’t get absolutely high listening to John McLaughlin hit those high bendy notes during Birds of Fire, then they…just…didn’t…get…it. Gee whiz, I still love that record. But that’s not the record I’m going to pass on for my Dear Readers (see? I can cheat, neatly. I wonder how many more awesome records I “can’t” recommend before the end of this thing…).

This is too hard.

Fact is, I think a lot of us “rock” musicians have been influenced by so much: jazz artists, world musics of other cultures (the way Mahavishnu Orchestra channeled Indian music), theater composers (would Bowie be Bowie without Kurt Weill?) and a million other sources. Just think of Nirvana’s dark modal sound and The Doors and Eastern music and you get what I mean.

So, I stretch a little here and thread together an essay on influences at large. People, if I were to pass on a torch of musical influences that torch would be burning bright with the fuel I picked up from a life listening to everything from Miles Davis, to Mozart, Stockhausen, Aaron Copeland to The Beatles, Stones, Joni Mitchell, Bowie, Roxy Music, Iggy, Weirdos, Screamers, Television, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, to The Strokes, Atmosphere and MGMT!! The list is too long.”

But wait…there is one single artist and album that he holds above all others…: “So, being an honest Midwesterner, I must return to my task. What ONE ARTIST/ALBUM would I recommend?

Listen to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It has the theater, the jazz, the rock, the attitude, the voice, and f***ing Mick Ronson.”

Chan PolingAbout our guest author, Chan Poling: Chan is the leader of The Suburbs, a group that has to rank up there with The Replacements for the comeback act of the year award. Similar to The Replacements, The Suburbs had their start in Minneapolis, but their sound was closer to New Wave than the speedy thrash of the early Mats records. They released their first album in 1978 on Twin/Tone and later had a solid hit with Love Is the Law, earning them marquee opening slots for Iggy Pop and the B52′s. Several albums followed, but the band broke up in 1987, setting up Chan’s solo career in which he released two solo records and scored compositions for a slew of television, film and theater. Poling also formed the group The New Standards with John Munson of Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare in 2005 and released an album of covers with the group. Chan was sure to play Suburbs tunes in The New Standards show, very much keeping alive the legacy of the band that DJ Jim McGuinn called the ‘Midwestern Psychedelic Furs.’ In 2013, The Suburbs reformed, had a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for recording and released the spectacular comeback album, Si Sauvage. Give a listen to the record below and you’ll certainly agree with Jon Hunt of letoile who calls it “…just straight-up entertaining and full-stop great.” The horn packed Turn the Radio On and You’ve Got to Love Her are two of our faves, as is Dumb Ass Kids, a tune that finds Chan and the group looking back on their history with biting humor and awe. As Poling told, “It’s about me talking to our younger selves. We had more than one conversation about how lucky we are to be alive still after the way we used to live.” The band is already prepping a followup record and is playing select tour dates for some very lucky audiences.

* Bonus fact: Chan also played keys on some of the tracks from The Replacements Let It Be album.