I had a friend called Dave whose parents owned a Canadian Tire store (kind of like a Home Depot) in Ontario, Canada and who decided it would be a better life if he did things his own way. He was kind of a hippy punk, with long hair, a beard (way before it was fashionable), thrift store clothes and lived in a little studio apartment in a not-so-nice part of Hamilton, Ont., which was a steel town. If you know Hamilton you know where those are. Anyway, while I was into punk rock extensively and was making my way into house and electronica, he was into The Stooges, Velvet Underground, Nuggets, The Fuzztones and a weird little band called Suicide.
Suicide was one of those bands that defied easy categorization. One man with a drum machine and a cheap Casio keyboard, and a singer that was part Gene Vincent and part Satan. Electronic Psychobilly is how I would, if forced, categorize this band.
Their debut is an unnerving, strange and a decidedly hip record. Anchored by the terrifying Frankie Teardrop, a song about some down and out dude who loses his job and decides to blow away his wife and kids while they sleep, then turn the gun on himself, the first album from these sonic terrorists is all killer, no filler. It’s not all doom, though. Cheree is an honest to goodness love song (I think!), and Ghost Rider, Rocket USA and Johnny are pretty fun electrobilly-type tunes. Minimal and highly, highly influential for every electronic band formed after 1978.
The second album (titled The Second Album) was produced by Rick Ocasek (whose Shooby-Doo from the Cars Candy O album pays homage to Suicide), and he brings a much richer, slicker sound to this effort, naturally. The minimalism is still there, but the ghoulish atmospherics are gone, baby, gone. Jesus, even Bruce Springsteen has covered a song from this: Dream Baby Dream. Actually, I believe that song was released as a single, and was included in later pressings of the record. That song, in addition to Diamonds, Fur Coat and Champagne, Mr. Ray and Be Bop Kid and Shadazz are the equal to anything on the debut, but the rest of the songs kind of pale in comparison.
I really like these 2 albums, but have not had the courage to dig any deeper yet. I believe they’re still around, but I am not really sure. Any self respecting punk or electronica fan needs this in their collection, and especially the first album. Just don’t play it while you’re kids are within earshot!