The Suburbs

Credit in Heaven

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    8
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History hasn't been especially kind to most of the bands that came out of the more danceable wing of the American new wave scene of the 1980s, but the Suburbs are certainly an exception; brittle, angular, more than a bit smart, and successfully walking a fine line between sounding arty and pretentious, the Suburbs suggested a mildly sinister mixture of Talking Heads, Roxy Music, and Pere Ubu with an undertow that was at once funky and muscularly aggressive. 1981's Credit in Heaven was the group's most ambitious project, a two-record set which presents the band's musical ideas and lyrical eccentricities writ large, running the gamut from the nervy wit of "Tape Your Wife to the Ceiling," the alcoholic self-deception of "Drinking With an Angel," the class-conscious paranoia of "Dish It Up," and the title cut, which not only manages to sum up New Testament vs. Old Testament approaches toward sin and forgiveness in less then four minutes, but manages to make it funny and danceable at the same time. If Credit in Heaven has a flaw, it's that its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp; while none of the songs are bad, some are a more immediately memorable than others, and while the album certainly rallies on side four (which features the album's two most striking numbers, the title cut and the danceclub hit "Music for Boys"), it seems to meander a bit in the middle. And while the production by Paul Stark is imaginative, it also sometimes betrays the album's low budget, and the engineering doesn't always have the sharp snap this material needs (and which the group received on their best album, Love Is the Law). But even the weakest songs are interesting and well-executed, the band plays with finesse and power (while Chan Poling's piano often dominates the arrangements, Bruce C. Allen and Blaine John Chaney's guitars show plenty of backbone), and the Suburbs' arch wit and instrumental agility are obvious on every cut. Credit in Heaven is an under-appreciated milestone of the Midwestern new wave that awaits rediscovery.

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