Pop: Suicide make one last bid for attention

Suicide Highbury Garage, London

Leaving the house shrieking with manic glee at the sound of a band being booed off stage 20 years ago for 23 minutes straight, walking into a venue an hour later to watch them live could only disappoint. It doesn't help that Suicide's debut album, also two decades old, remains so inexplicable, so ominous. The primitive synth pulses of Martin Rev remain untouched in their strangeness, after so many years of that instrument's familiarity; the proto-rock'n'roll lyrics and shrieks of Alan Vega still sound unhinged.

Brought together to celebrate that album's re-release, playing in London for the first time in a decade, Suicide have somehow contrived to become popular. The small venue is packed, the crowd, most in their thirties, are here to praise the band, not bury them (as an axe-hurler at a Seventies gig once tried to). It doesn't seem healthy, somehow. Until the first note they strike literally raises the hair on my head, and they're back.

The first change to confront is Suicide's age. Where once their New York hip was effortless, now Alan Vega looks like a beatnik Fagin, in fingerless gloves, shades and beret, a little portly. Rev looks like Joey Ramone crossed with Herman Munster, a deliberate cartoon. It's cruelly relevant to rock whether its musicians fulfil their music's fantasies, and Suicide's alterations make the illusion waver.

More seriously, the passage of time has stripped them of the shock they rode in on. Some fans howl at the stage, as if auditioning for parts in the infamous, riot-ended Brussels show I'd been listening to. One seemed to think he was on the Bill Grundy show, circa 1976, hissing, "You're just a slut anyway, you're so fucking boring tonight" as he inched forward. Vega, the performance artist, threw mock-punches. But the smiles on stage couldn't be controlled. Suicide knew they were loved, and what could be more fatal than that?

It's to their credit that their reaction was to try to confront their audience with the present day, to get to them once more. One of their signature tunes, "Rocket USA", begins as some kind of classic-rock lodestone, its lyrics updated as Vega's hero Iggy Pop does to "Louie, Louie". But before long, Rev is trying to redetonate the old explosion, molesting a tribal beat, breaking it up, till the sense of comfort shakes apart, for just a moment.

The more they go on, the more the system they invented begins to reassert its grip. Sounds which, at a dance club, would be normal, in this context can still be made strange. By the time they take their last, brief encore, the song they think of as their greatest, "Frankie Teardrop", they've won a partial victory. "Frankie" cements it. A 10-minute epic of carnage on record, Vega compresses it to a single punch. "We're all Frankies!" he bellows, and leaves. In a way, it's all been pointless. Suicide know they can't repeat the impact of their past. It was good to see them, because they tried anyway.

Suicide continue at the Garage on Saturday and Sunday. Their album, `Suicide', is reissued by Blast First on Monday.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

    £15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

    Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

    £11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

    £15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy