Suicide, Electric Ballroom, London

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The Independent Culture

Sporting such a name when they started out in 1970, Suicide were aiming, it is fair to assume, for success of the cult variety. The proto-punk electronic performance duo met when Martin Rev's 15-piece jazz ensemble, Reverend B, performed at Alan Vega's gallery space, the Project of Living Artists, in Manhattan.

Sporting such a name when they started out in 1970, Suicide were aiming, it is fair to assume, for success of the cult variety. The proto-punk electronic performance duo met when Martin Rev's 15-piece jazz ensemble, Reverend B, performed at Alan Vega's gallery space, the Project of Living Artists, in Manhattan.

They subsequently advertised their first gigs as "punk music" years before punk. It took five years for them to provoke any response that resembled encouragement - from The New York Dolls - and they became a part of the scene based around the club CBGBs in 1976.

Their seductive and frightening self-titled debut album of 1977 was the blueprint for a whole spectrum of musicians, from synth-pop groups of the Eighties, such as Soft Cell, to more threatening and dissonant incarnations such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. Acts as diverse as Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, Ministry, Aphex Twin and even Bruce Springsteen acknowledge their influence. But, like many good artists, these guys have had to wait a long time for recognition. The duo are in their fifties now.

That first album was the source of much of their notoriety. Martin's hauntingly spare melodic lines and visceral percussion, punctuated with Alan's rockabilly Beat poetry, conjures imagery comparable only to that of David Lynch's films.

Riding another peak of influence, with the recent resurgence of synth-heavy bands, Suicide are now playing a small string of dates in Europe. From the outset, Suicide erase all traces of sentiment, while somehow managing to appear as they were in 1975. They ooze an astounding rock attitude that goes beyond age, irony and arrogance.

Rev is leather-clad like a biker, with fuzzy short-to-long hair and white visor sunglasses. Vega, leering in apparent disgust and smoking theatrically, appears like some Cuban guerrilla, with a black scarf round his head, biker glasses and tracksuit trousers. Rev launches into what can only be described as a deconstruction of disco, with dazzlingly dissonant keyboard flourishes in a compelling anti-classical style.

As in the Seventies, Rev plays with one hand, but this time the other isn't used fend off bottles, but purely to rock out. Sneering, he destroys all forms of technique with sadistic and primitive bashings. Many in the audience are incredulous at the jaw-droppingly raucous set, as Vega seethes: "White man! White man! The war goes on!"

"Ghost Rider" and "Cheree" are played as monster electronic mashes of the originals. Other songs quote Eighties classics, from Mark Moore's "Theme from S-Express" (Moore looks slightly ruffled in the audience) to the German electronic pranksters Yello, and crunch them to pieces.

This tour de force culminates in a brief sermon, in which Vega opines to the audience: "You are the ones to change this shit. You are the youth... It's your turn now. We did it in Vietnam... Don't buy what is happening!" The crowd, no doubt already converted, responds with a cheer.

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