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Suicide

Anamorphic photograph of Martin Rev and Alan Vega before 1988 Toronto concert
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, USA
Genres No Wave, Art punk, Art rock, Electronica, Industrial, Synthpunk
Years active 1971 - present
Labels International Records
Members
Alan Vega
Martin Rev

Suicide is an American synthpunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1971 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. They are an early synthesizer/vocal musical duo.

Never widely popular amongst the general public, Suicide are highly influential: critic Wilson Neate writes that Suicide "would prove as influential as The Clash. Listening to their self-titled 1977 debut from the vantage point of late 2002, it's all so obvious: the synthpop, techno, and industrial dance sounds of the '80s and '90s, and now the new New Wave of electroclash, all gesture back to that foundational album." [1]

In a 1971 flyer the band was the first ever to use the phrase "punk music" to advertise a concert. [2]

Contents

History

Suicide took their name from the title of a Ghost Rider comic book titled Satan Suicide, a favourite comic book of Alan Vega.[3] Rev's simple keyboard riffs (initially played on a battered Farfisa organ before he acquired a synthesizer) were accompanied by primitive drum machines, providing the backdrop for Vega's muttering and nervy vocals.

Suicide emerged alongside the early punk scene in New York City with a reputation for their live shows; Vega stated "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already." [4] The first album was reissued with bonus material including "23 Minutes Over Brussels", a recording of a Suicide concert that deteriorated into a riot. Vega and Rev both dressed like arty street thugs, and Vega was notorious for brandishing a length of motorcycle drive chain onstage. This sort of audience confrontation was inspired by Vega's witnessing of a Stooges concert in the early '70s, which he later described as "great art".

Their first album, Suicide (1977), is regarded a classic. One critic writes: "'Che', 'Ghost Rider'—these eerie, sturdy, proto-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced. Of note is the ten-minute "Frankie Teardrop," which tells the story of a poverty-stricken Vietnam vet pushed to the edge: critic Emerson Dameron writes that the song is "one of the most terrifying, riveting, absurd things I’ve ever heard."[5]

Suicide's albums and performances in the 1970s and early 1980s are regarded as some of the most influential recordings of their time and helped shape the direction of indie rock, industrial music and dance music. Among others, Steve Albini (Shellac, Rapeman, Big Black), Panthére, Gang Gang Dance, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sisters of Mercy, She Wants Revenge, Henry Rollins, Joy Division/New Order, Soft Cell, Nick Cave, Cassandra Complex, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Radiohead, Kap Bambino, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Michael Gira, Sonic Boom, Loop, The Fleshtones (both of whom have recorded cover versions of "Rocket USA"), Ric Ocasek of The Cars, R.E.M. and The Kills have all listed Suicide as an influence. Bruce Springsteen was also influenced by the band, as evident by the song "State Trooper" from his album Nebraska. Furthermore, Springsteen also used a solo keyboard version of "Dream Baby Dream" to close the concerts on his 2005 Devils & Dust Tour.

In 1986, Alan Vega collaborated with Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy on the 'Gift' album, released under the name of 'The Sisterhood'. Vega and Rev have both released solo albums, and Suicide released their first album in over a decade with 2002's American Supreme. Sales, however, were slow and critical reception was mixed.

In 2005, SAF Publishing put out Suicide No Compromise, a "docu-biography" by David Nobahkt, which featured extensive interviews with Vega and Rev as well as many of their contemporaries and famous fans.

In September 2009, the group performed their debut LP live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series.

In mid-2009, the band The Horrors released a cover of the song "Shadazz" as part of a tribute to Alan Vega and his work. They have performed it mulitple times live, along with another Suicide song, "Ghost Rider".

Their song "Ghost Rider" was recently featured in a sixth season episode of HBO's Entourage.

Discography

Both Vega and Rev have recorded many solo albums.

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Albums

  • Suicide (1977) (Red Star Records) (Mute/Blast 2002 CD reissue includes extra disc of 1978 live performances, including the original 23 Minutes Over Brussels flexidisc)
  • 21½ minutes in Berlin/23 minutes in Brussels (1978) (Red Star Records Frankie 1)
  • Suicide (second album) (1980) (Produced by Ric Ocasek - reissued as The Second Album - Mute/Blast First CD reissue includes extra disc of 1975 rehearsal sessions)
  • Half Alive (1981) (collection of live and demo material recorded from 1975-1979 - originally on ROIR cassette only - liner notes by Lester Bangs)
  • Ghost Riders (1986) (live concert from 1981 - originally on cassette only)
  • A Way of Life (1988) (Produced by Ric Ocasek)
  • A Way of Life (reissue, 2005) : Mute/Blast First CD reissue has a different mix of the song "Surrender", and includes live bonus disc recorded in 1987
  • Y B Blue (1992) (Produced by Ric Ocasek)
  • Why Be Blue (reissue, different mix, 2005) : Mute/Blast First CD reissue includes live bonus disc recorded in 1989 and a complete remix by Martin Rev of the original album
  • Zero Hour (1997) (late 70's live recordings)
  • 22/1/98 - Reinventing America (CD E.P) (1998) (Recorded live at The Barbican - "Inventing America" launch party)
  • American Supreme (2002) (initial CD copies included live bonus disc recorded in 1998);
  • Attempted: Live at Max's Kansas City 1980 (2004) (Soundboard recordings from a NYC rock club performance. Liner notes by Marty Thau)
  • Live 1977-1978 (2008) (Six CD box set containing thirteen entire Suicide live performances from September 1977 to August 1978 plus other audio ephemera of the time);

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/483
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon (January 29, 2002). Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-01-29/news/suicide-watch/1. Retrieved 2010-01-01. "The second gig took place at the Soho gallery OK Harris, where Vega also held his first show. "On the gig flyers, we announced it as a Punk Music Mass. We didn't invent the word—I probably got it from an article on the Stooges by Lester Bangs—but I think we were the first band to describe our music as punk."" 
  3. ^ Reynolds, 2006. p.143
  4. ^ Moyer, Matthew (January 2003). "Alan Vega". Ink 19. http://www.ink19.com/issues/january2003/interviews/alanVegaPartI.html. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  5. ^ Dameron, Emerson. "Ghost Songs - Our Favorite Halloween Tunes". Dusted Magazine. http://dustedmagazine.com/features/543. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 

References

  • Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Penguin. ISBN 0143036726. 

External links


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