SUICIDE Suicide (Blast First)

This is a re-issue of the legendary, seminal etc. debut album by the New York duo of Alan Vega (voice) and Martin Rev (electronics), here presented with a bonus disc containing the live mini-albums "Live At CBCB’s 1978" and "23 Minutes Over Brussels", along with copious sleevenotes emphasising how intriguing, confrontational, revolutionary and so on they were.

Perhaps Suicide’s greatest legacy was their format: formed in 1971, their vocalist/keyboardist line-up effectively and unwittingly became the blueprint for the early 80s (think Blancmange, Pet Shop Boys, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Soft Cell), challenging the orthodox notion that you couldn’t be a band without guitars/bass/drums. These days their music is lionised by the likes of Pulp and sometime collaborators Spiritualized, which makes this long-overdue reissue more than timely.

Sometimes, though, legends are better talked about than listened to. The overwhelming (if that’s the correct word, and I don’t think it is) impression "Suicide" leaves is of how feeble it all sounds two decades on. Rev’s drum machine appears to be irretrievably wedged into full-on bossa-nova hysteria mode, and his two-finger keyboard riffs have been milked to the extremes of novelty value over the course of the first two Spiritualized albums. There are definite echoes of The Stooges (think "1969" covered by John Hegley, if you dare), whilst Vega’s mumblings and croonings suggest a late period Elvis singing in his sleep, save for the Buddy Holly hiccough through "Keep Your Dreams", and the spine chilling, distorted yelps he whips up on their trademark tune, the ten-minute "Frankie Teardrop".

Unfortunately, despite the obvious affection (again, if that’s the right word) with which they are viewed by the cognoscenti, and as much as I’d like it to be, "Suicide" isn’t like "The Velvet Underground & Nico" all over again. In fact it sounds more like the work of a pair of arthouse chancers who got lucky when the aesthetic of a subset of popular culture briefly collided with their own.