Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Suicide - Self- Titled (1977)

Suicide in my opinion are one of the most important bands to emerge from the 70s New York Punk scene, in fact I'd even say Suicide are the most important group of that decade and also one of the most important during the 20th century.

Suicide formed in 1971 out of the New York bohemian art scene, the band  consisting of Alan Vega - vocals and Martin Rev - Keyboards/Synths, originally formed more as an art project rather than a band, they were in the traditional sense more of a performing arts duo than a live musical band, however their stage show presence and powerful live performance, confirmed their place as an important New York City Rock 'n' Roll band and they are now considered to be one of the pioneers of the blossoming 70s New York Punk Scene - in fact Suicide were one of the first bands, if not the first to describe their music as Punk.

During 1971 through to 1973 Vega and Rev each lived in virtual poverty, they were the freaks of their social landscape, they were true outcasts who came  together to create the most raucous, most frightening, yet most genius noise. They also created a very pure art not seen or felt since the Dadaist in the early 1900's. As a performing duo during this time they played shows at New York's infamous Mercer Arts Centre alongside glam-rockers like The New York Dolls. From 1973 onwards the group played the famous New York Clubs including CBGB's and Max's Kansas City again alongside early incarnations of New York punk bands which would later be more well known, these included Television, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, The Ramones etc.

Suicide continued as a live performance group and still perform together to this day however the year 1977 saw their self -titled debut album  released and subsequently from that point on the history of popular music was changed slightly.

I purchased the Suicide album when I was about 14 years old, I remember the day well, it was sunny and I rode on my bicycle from my home at the time in Uxbridge (West London) all the way up to a small suburban town in North-West London called Eastcote, there used to be a rather cool record shop called Sellanby's (an axiom of  the term Sell and Buy) which I went to and procured much of my early record collection (on cassette ironically). The Suicide album was one of these albums I purchased purely because of the front cover, with its mad insignia of the words 'Suicide' splashed across the front, seeing something like that as a young child is paramount to seeing the swastika, the intrigue of such a symbol draws you in instantly.

When I got home, what can only be described as an attack to my senses took place, I knew instantly what I had picked up by chance was an important musical creation and Suicide's album was not only important in that it influenced future music genres such as Electronica, Techno, Drone Rock, Neo-Pysch etc but it was also important as it literally tore to shreds what music was all about at the time, In Suicide's world, music was minimal, bare absolute nothingness, primitive, scary and industrial, it was the sounds, energy and feelings of New York during the 70s and for me on a personal level to me it was the sounds of my suburbia and my own living-hell; the council estates, the bus depots, the train station, the factories, the schools, the narrow-minded people, the drunks, the boredom and the isolation. I still occasionally visit the place I grew up from time-to-time and every time I do re-visit, the soundtrack always in my head is Suicide.

For me the album also spoke to an inner version of me, it was the version which couldn't express itself and struggled to express itself and upon listening to Suicide's debut LP, I felt that within Alan Vega's crazy Elvis-like spasms of reverbed echo that there was a guy who was equally like me angry about the world around him and in Martin Rev's droning two-note keyboard there was a guy who was happy to escape in sounds and textures which is something I enjoy doing too... making Suicide therefore a huge influence for me and my life.

Below I am going to play three of my favourite songs on the album, even though as an artistic piece the whole album is genius and should be listened to throughout, I would recommend that it should be listened to as a whole piece of art and not as a rock 'n' roll album.

ROCKET USA is the track which kinda got me hypnotised, I love how the lyrical context is portrayed in such a minimal yet forceful manner.... I love the lyrics in Rocket USA ..."tv star riding round, riding round in the killer's car", "It's 19 hundred 77, the whole country is doing a fix".... these are pop-art slogans, they are art manifesto's in themselves and a great condemnation of the then unforeseen horridness which would later become our own modern society, comparing a tv star to a killer is genius in my opinion. Suicide were totally on the ball and ahead of their peers by at least 20 years.

GIRL - This track in its primitive and minimalist genius pretty much expresses the thought form in every red-blooded teenage boys' head. This song has the raw sexuality that Rock 'n' Roll had, but because it's been stripped back to its most primitive and raw, it makes it that one bit more real and honest. In 'Girl' Alan Vega  just tells it as it is "Ohhh Girl touch me soft.... you know how I feel" . As a counterpart to the extreme desperation of the track, the repetition of drum machine and vox organ create mesmeric waves of joy underneath... the song is pure trashy sex and that it what is so genius about it.

FRANKIE TEARDROP - if one song could express the ill feeling, the dystopia of society, the horribleness in modern living, the absurdity in the world today, then it has to be this. During my first few listens of this track in my early teens, I genuinely was scared, it scared me deeply, it frightened me to my core and if music can do that, then it is pretty damn powerful... The only other music which has scared me in such a manner since, has been Stockhausen. I actually can't listen to Stockhausen purely cos I'd end up doing a Frankie Teardrop myself. I feel that every human being on the earth needs to hear this track at least once in their life, because it does speak to that part of our natural human nature that wants to kill, that wants to hurt, that wants to escape, that wants to scream, that wants to rape, that wants to set fire to shit and wants to put the gun to the head and make the blood hit the walls and ceiling. 

Alan Vega again proves his genius right at the end of the song where he proclaims "We're all Frankies - we're all lying in Hell".... which we are, just take a look around you, it ain't all smiles and rose tinted glasses.

Anyway; I can't speak about how great this album is, you'll just have to trust me so please do yourselves a favour and purchase this amazing album.


Paul Messis

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