Jeremy Gluck (Barracudas) : top 10 favourite albums : number 6 :

Alan Vega

(For number 7 in Jeremy Gluck’s top 10 favourite albums please go here)

I had the great privilege for a few years of working closely with Marty Thau, who discovered and brought to the world Suicide, whose debut album may be the most significant of its era. I asked Marty once why Suicide never were big in the usual sense and he replied that, simply, at the time that debut was released America just wasn’t ready for music without guitars. A few years later, it was, but the music without guitars it settled for was largely New Romantic inflected pulp infection. Meanwhile, Suicide soldiered on, releasing record after record of consummate minimalist genius.

They influenced everybody. They were ripped off by everybody.

Alan Vega, their vocalist and lyricist, a punk Elvis incarnate – a Puerto Rican street kid Jew, no less – went solo eventually and, after some independent releases of awesome directness and power ,with the help of The Cars’ hit-making Rick Ocasek, got Elektra to bankroll “Saturn Strip”, in every kind “Low” for Alphabet City, a careening, joyful, hugely intense ride characterised by primitive synths, heavily processed guitars and Vega’s leitmotif yelps, growls and sneers. “Wipeout Beat”, which tells the tale of a war-blinded Viet vet riding the NYC subway, is worth the price of submission alone to this masterpiece, but every single track is leveling. And the cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s A Winner” that closes the album is sheer brilliance, inverting and perverting original in a grinding, bumping and almost incoherent caricature of its subject. Make no mistake, Vega is one of the few really formidable talents of his generation. “Saturn Strip” is so perfect it might collapse under its own weight of thrills, but as usual Vega, carny tease that he is, always stays one step ahead of the meltdown he is stagemangling. There is a Suicide album entitled “A Way Of Life”. Believe it.


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