- Label: 'The State51 Conspiracy / Hologram Rose'
- Genre: 'Indie'
- Release Date: '19th October 2018'
The angry, nihilistic albums created by vocalist Alan Vega and electronic musician Martin Rev as Suicide were of such chilling intensity that the idea of attempting any cover versions of their material seems an act of folly. To make an whole album reworking twelve of their classic tracks appears tantamount to madness.
Undeterred, this is just what producer Tim Norman and singer Guy McKnight have done working under the guise of Many Angled Ones (MAO).
Their stated motives are to make the record both as an act of love towards Vega, who died in 2016, and "because they (Suicide) made everything possible for the artists that came after them".
Norman says of the project that "it was when I saw Suicide play their last-ever concert in London that I became determined to make it a reality. Alan Vega was obviously nearing the end of his life after suffering a stroke and heart attack a couple of years before, but I have never seen such intensity and energy in a performance”.
In the late 1970s, Suicide's original fusion of electropunk and rockabilly was both familiar and fiercely confrontational. Wisely, MAO have not tampered too much with this template. If the sound seems less powerful it's only because, after the trail blazed by Rev and Vega, the more radical elements now seem relatively conventional.
The covers are based closely on the original songs and drum samples yet, although the vocal recordings have something of Vega's pseudo Elvis croon, McKnight wisely makes no attempt to slavishly copy the late singer's phrasing.
As an act of respect they do not strive to be overly reverent. Suicide themselves showed that you could capture the spirit of a song while completely redefining it. Their six minute take on the 1966 proto-punk hit 96 Tears, recorded live at Max's in Kansas City in 1980, was not so much a cover as a deconstruction. Essentially this gives MAO carte blanche to do what they want with the same song. McKnight chooses to whisper the words menacingly over a pulsating drum beat that has more in common with the way ? and the Mysterians intended it, a song of teen angst that Jon Savage described as drawing from the "same well of emotion" as Love's '7 And 7 Is'.
Overall, this album is no cosy nostalgia trip and MAO are right to highlight the contemporary relevance of Suicide's political messages. A line such as "this goddamn country's going to hell" in Rocket USA seems all too prophetic. They capture well the despair of Dominic Christ in which the cry of "Jesus where are you?" sounds like a desperate question pitched into the void.
This record is a reminder that, four decades on, Suicide's uncompromising music has not dated and, if anything, has become more potent and necessary.