This remarkable debut album, released a full seven years after the group had formed, was still way ahead of its time back in 1978. Suicide—Alan Vega on vocals and Martin Rev on keyboards and drum machine—are one of the most original acts in the history of popular music. They're often called the first synthpop act; synth-punk is closer to the truth—their music was far more edgy and menacing than that of any of their followers, with the notable exception of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, et al.
Suicide drew on the right protopunk influence (Nuggets-type stuff, Velvets, Stooges) and came out of the same Mercer Arts scene that bred the New York Dolls. Their guitar-bass-and-"real"-drummer-deprived setup outraged audiences; on the superb bonus disc you can hear a European crowd rioting in the background while their apocalyptic nursery rhymes sound away. Tough guy Vega croons like an evil Elvis bred on garage rock and performance art; the stoic Rev lays churning, repetitive, and oddly melodic lines down on his beat-up Farfisa, and the ancient drum machine—it actually sounds steam-driven—propels the music toward a ratty, Blade Runner future.
"Dream Baby Dream," "Che," "Ghost Rider"—these eerie, sturdy, steam-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced. This reissue is bright and clear-sounding, and with the full disc of live performances (a 1977 CBGB's soundboard tape plus the legendary "23 Minutes Over Brussels" performance) this is an essential purchase.
Suicide at CBs in 1986. Single best slight bit of interaction I've ever had with a band as they play. I'm in the front row still wearing the red Gap sweatshirt and brown cords my mom sent me away to the big city in and I'm going nuts and Alan Vega puts the mic in my face to have me shout into it, right into the reverb soaked thing, during I think it was "Ghost Rider," as Rev pounds away making this accompanying swirling sound that no one else ever made before or since this cloud of future noise that also seemed like a calliope or something — hand cranked but also menacing. You have heard this band I don't need to say that. Anyway so I yell into it, but not too loud. So Rev looks at me, shakes his head to say no that wasn't good enough kid, then puts the mic back in my face one more time. So now I look at him and yell as loud and deep as I can, for maybe fifteen seconds, and he smiles and starts to sing again. That little interaction made me so fucking happy, it's hard to explain. Didn't hurt they were the best live band right then — just as they were the handful of times I saw play here and there over the next fifteen years.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.