Dusting Off... Suicide's Suicide
What is it?
Amidst the emerging New York punk scene in the late 1970s, Suicide were, and remain, something of an oddity. Where their contemporaries like Television, The Ramones and Blondie were largely faster, noisier and more ragged incarnations of the types of bands that had preceded them in the early 1970s and even the 1960s, at least in terms of their instrumentation and line-ups, Suicide were something else entirely.
A duo comprised of Martin Rev and Alan Vega, Suicide were purveyors of what they called 'synthpunk' and were supposedly one of the first bands to refer to themselves as 'punk' at all. Their sound is a combination of filthy, distorted synthesizers (or, earlier, Farfisa organs played through multiple distortion units) and lo-fi drum machines, all underpinning Vega's unique vocal style, giving them a sound that was both driving and dirty, as well as being uniquely fresh.
Their eponymous debut, released in 1977, includes standout tracks like the opening salvo 'Ghost Rider', still one of their most popular songs, as well as tracks like the meandering synth freakout 'Frankie Teardrop' and the hauntingly melodic 'Cheree'.
Although they have come to be respected for their pioneering approach, they were so unusual that the time that their unpopularity extended to being physically assaulted by members of the audience (there is a well-documented story about a show they did in Glasgow in '78, at which somebody threw an axe at the singer). Ever the odd ones out, their aesthetic hasn't really changed in their 40-year career, only the rest of the world has finally caught up with them.
Why should I revisit?
Like many of the bands we feature in Dusting Off..., Suicide's influence and legacy far outweighs their commercial success. From the deluge of vocals-and-synth duos that arrived in the 80s like The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, to the more recent electroclash acts, Suicide are owed a debt of gratitude by a whole range of artists and deserve far more recognition than they are often afforded. Their debut was pretty unique at the time of its release and was way ahead of its time, sounding fresh even today.
Who will enjoy it?
Suicide's influence covers a vast range of artists from Aphex Twin to MGMT, so really all we can say on this one is give it a listen and find out for yourselves.