Friday, December 10, 2004

no-wave christmas pt 2: Suicide

To catch up on what exactly is going on, read this post first. A summary: Ze Records, 1981, no-wave and mutant disco, christmas.

The second track on the holiday compilation was from the NYC duo, Suicide. Here is a website. There is even a book coming out early next year about them. Do yourself a favor and at least pick up their first two albums. And delve into the archives to check out some real Suicide idolatry at 20jazzfunkgreats, where I won a contest to help find the modern Suicide (my entry was Ghost Exits.)

Although they barely receive credit, Suicide (singer Alan Vega and keyboardist Martin Rev) is the source point for virtually every synth pop duo that glutted the pop marketplace (especially in England) in the early '80s. Without the trailblazing Rev and Vega, there would have been no Soft Cell, Erasure, Bronski Beat, Yaz, you name 'em, and while many would tell you that that's nothing to crow about, the aforementioned synth-poppers merely appropriated Suicide's keyboards/singer look and none of Rev and Vega's extremely confrontational performance style and love of dissonance. The few who did (Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire) were considered too extreme for most tastes.

Suicide had been a part of the performing arts scene in New York City's Lower East Side in the early/mid-'70s New York Dolls era. Their approach to music was simple: Rev would create minimalistic, spooky, hypnotic washes of dissonant keyboards and synthesizers, while Vega sang, ranted, and spat neo-Beat lyrics in a jumpy, disjointed fashion. On stage, Vega became confrontational, often baiting the crowd into a riotous frenzy that occasionally led to full-blown violence, usually with the crowd attacking Vega. With their reputation as controversial performers solidified, what was lost was that Suicide recorded some amazingly seductive and terrifying music. A relationship with Cars mastermind Ric Ocasek proved successful, bringing their music to a wider audience and developing unlikely fans (Bruce Springsteen went on record as loving Suicide's Vietnam-vet saga "Frankie Teardrop"), but after numerous breakups and reconciliations, Rev and Vega settled for being more influential than commercially successful.

2. Suicide - Hey Lord

Get your Suicide goodies here.


At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm. Actually, I'll disagree on the influence of Suicide. While they were somewhat notorious among scenesters of the downtown art scene (and have milked that since), they were hardly the template for British synthpop. Chalk that up to Daniel Miller, Top of The Pops and Kraftwerk (far more influential). And TG were well on their way to formulating modern industrial in the UK before Suicide were able to travel their performance art outside of the city.

They *did* get some attention by the mainstream when Ocasek brought them onto the Candy-O tour with the Cars as opening act, but their dissonance was soundly rejected and they were dropped outside of the major markets as being too confrontational. That is a more accurate portrayal of their influence. Fortunately for them, there are many "festivals" in Europe where they can reunite for some attention.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, no, Suicide were *vastly* influential ... on Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

(Seriously - I remember a 'Personal Top 10' by Martin Degville including every Suicide album.)

At 7:46 PM, Blogger heath said...

ok I forgot to attribute the All Music Guide for the above italicized area. the question of where I stand- well, I dont think they are the reason Soft Cell and Yaz exist, but maybe Black Dice. good to know someone is reading- check back monday for track 3 of the xmas comp...

At 8:09 PM, Blogger jasperjed said...

Following up on the Suicide post from last week, there was a great live interview tonight with Alan Vega and Martin Rev on 91.3 in NY - history and music, if you like them, a great show.


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