Suicide Suicide (1977): 74%
Along with the notorious “Hamburger Lady” a la Throbbing Gristle, I have added “Frankie Teardrop” on my list of songs never to listen to before bedtime. Both the content of the song and Alan Vega’s piercing screams accompanying each victim of a sad and frightful murder-suicide, is enough to prompt the question: is this song the reason they’re called Suicide?
Upon looking at the album art and listening to the songs, this reminds me of my days as a misunderstood teenager finding comfort in old cult horror films that no one has ever heard of (Pieces, Humanoids from the Deep, Planet of the Vampires, etc.). Given Roger Corman’s prolific career as a cult movie producer, I wouldn’t be surprised if his name was attached to this record either. But no, it is instead the product of vocalist Alan Vega and songwriter Martin Rev (how cool are the names?) with production by Craig Leon and Marty Thau. This record also stands as a mythbuster that you have to be young and spastic in order to make music this cool; both Rev and Vega released this debut when they were in their late 30’s, thus proving 40 can be the new 20.
Sadly and ironically, if anybody around my age discovered this album, they would have M.I.A. to thank for that (not me; I read about this through Pitchfork). She lifted the main riff to “Ghost Rider” to give her song “Born Free” the much needed drive the rest of /\/\ /\ Y /\ lacked. Which says a lot about the songs Vega/Rev created for this album. The rest of the album plays off like a mockery of disco as it grooves with beats created from equipment that’s still sounds so primitive, yet sounds innovative for 1977. “Rocket U.S.A.” and “Che” are great examples of this. “Johnny” is unique because it blurs the line between mockery and homage to the rockabilly days of the 50’s.
For all the inspiring glory that is to be found in the music, disappointingly less of it is found in Vega’s lyrics in the songs I’m about to mention. What little lyrics there are from him pretty much get repeated to death in songs like “Girl” and “Cheree” as well as the latter song’s remix. However, most bands make the mistake of not allowing its members to equally share the spotlight. In this album, Vega and Rev equally share their talents on the disc space. While the lyrics convey a more desperate situation and are vastly more tense in “Frankie Teardrop,” I still can’t help but feel that the lyrics could have been much more detailed and frightening. Then Vega’s ear-shattering shrieks shut me up and make me finish the rest of the song without a question in my head.
What I find particularly amusing though, is how this album is a slap in the face to the rise of New Wave, as it has been dubbed as being “No Wave.” Admittedly, that’s what got my attention in the first place. Upon hearing the groove of “Ghost Rider,” I was sold. Even contemplating getting this on vinyl. After all, the albums I buy new on vinyl are the ones I consider worth my money the most. This is definitely worth it.
Overall Impression: 7/10