That Suicide Sound

Suicide may be painless but they sure were influential! Suicide released one fantastic album (self titled debut), one good one (punningly titled The Second Album) and…well, not much else really worth mentioning. Their combination of mumbled psychobilly vocals and droning, cheap keyboards and drum machines, in addition to their confrontational performances, may have been the purest example of what true ‘punk rock’ was/is. To put it mildly, they were a weird band with a weird sound. But something happened on the way to the cutout bin: they, along with Kraftwerk, became the sound of the future. And, like Kraftwerk, the albums and songs from their classic years (Kraftwerk: 1974-1981/ Suicide: 1977-1980) impacted a generation of subversive synth-popers, the most successful of the bunch being The Cars. Others include Joy Division/New Order, Gary Numan, Fad Gadget, Talking Heads, Cabaret Voltaire. Rick Ocasec even produced Suicide’s The Second Album. Listen to the first four Cars albums, and then the first 2 Suicide albums. You’ll hear it.

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Suicide and their influence waned a bit in the ‘90’s and the early, um, ‘00’s, but I’m hearing the Suicide sound in a bunch of bands nowadays. Take the latest from Wooden Shjips, Back To Land (buy the physical product, it has a terrific, old school die cut cover!). It’s good, old fashioned Northern California psychedelic garage drone boogie rock, same as they’ve always done, but this time there’s more of the Suicide sound than ever. The difference is, here, that there are actual melodies and song structure, and it almost…almost…sounds like the band is happy. The lyrics are probably nonsense, and quite inconsequential as they continue to be mumbled in the lowest of low registers, but the songs themselves are all uniformly good to terrific.

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