Thursday, 3 January 2008



This is an exercise into belligerence, into making the listener invest contempt into the art it is purchasing.  This is the kind of music you put on to torture friends with, to clear the room at a party or to have rough sex to.

Recorded and released in 1977 Suicide were painfully ahead of their time, bucking the trends of the moment as their sonic onslaught felt a violent betrayal to the audience of punks that stood and gawped at them spewing aggression from the stage.  This is some kind of journey into hell where the intensity is such that you can only crack and laugh in order to make it through the entire record.

When reviewing the history of music there are few duos as punchy and accomplished as Alan Vega and Martin Rev.  There’s was the kind of connection an artist can only dream of finding in a partnership.  The trust and respect between them is obvious.  They were both taking risks in full knowledge they had each other’s back.

The album begins with “Ghost Rider” and a suffering onslaught addressing what is going on in their home nation.  This was music born of the grittiest times in modern America and in specific New York where freedom was long an illusion and suffocation be king.

There is plenty to take from this record.  The vocal style of Vega alone is incredibly unique as it fluctuates from whisper to menacing at the turn of a hat.  Then complimenting his work is Rev powering up a soup of stark repetition with his startling synth.  This is the noise created by the worst production line.

“Cheree” sounds almost church like in its delivery, like the worst kind of practitioner and minister.  Religion is dumb and evil, especially when it comes with such intent and menace.  As Rev twinkles like the Silver Apples, Vega sounds desperate in the most demented manner.  You don’t want to be “Cheree”.

The creepiness continues with “Girl” has more advances made towards some unlucky lady as another sticky scenario is played out.  Not recommended as make out music to play in the background.

The centre piece of the record is the ten minutes plus of “Frankie Teardrop” which offers a clear narrative and tale of a struggling soul becoming a disturbed soul.  As harsh as it tastes it is a very tragic song that in some ways actually makes me think of “Frank’s Wild Years” by Tom Waits.  As the electronic pulse refuses to relent it induces something of a migraine in the listener as Teardrop through Vega sets about exterminating his world and eventually life.  This is where the blood on the cover comes from.  The screams are so audible in this hell that it asks a lot of the listener to actually remain with the song until the end, the bitter end.  And that in itself is always an accomplishment.

Not long after this “Cheree” returns for a second time and now it feels slightly more upbeat even if remaining desperate and dirty.  This is the sound of persistent and blind optimism.  These are sentiments I’m not convinced are going to be reciprocated.

After a difficult and miserable time (experience), the album ends on a relatively upbeat manner with “Keep Your Dreams”.  Suddenly the words are light and positive and so is Rev’s backing that now comes with a pleasant piano line and less oppressive beats.  What suddenly went so well for them at the eleventh hour?  Regardless, salute the happy ending.

My old work colleague Stevo used to think Suicide was the band that got onstage and committed suicide.  Now where would be the career in that?  After years of working their way up, that would be the climax?  They would not be around to sample the fruits of their labour.  And certainly no one would ever book them again.

At the end of the day an act carrying the name Suicide is/was never going to be a barrel of laughs and to be honest what you get is what you deserve with this record.  As a gesture of attrition it wins on so many levels.  As a pleasant experience it resounding fails.  As a source of entertainment also it fails.  As a record to torment your friends and enemies with it works.

Approach with caution.

Thesaurus moment: deleterious.

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