Live Music Reviews

Suicide @ Electric Ballroom, London

24 January 2005


Coinciding with the re-release of their third and fourth albums, Why Be Blue? and A Way of Life, the incongruous New York electronica duo that is Suicide graced Camden for a one-off gig. Joining them in celebration of their canon were the pink-haired, black clad and pierced people of north London.

A good proportion of them looked sufficiently grizzled to have remembered Alan Vega and Martin Rev from when those albums first appeared.

Even to suggest they’re an electronica duo is playing economics with the truth. Martin Rev, sporting visor glasses, a Gene Wilder-as-mad-scientist fright wig seemingly all of his own hair and the kind of clothes one might find while ambling around in a porn star biker’s closet, makes a single synth and a mounted device – perhaps a sequencer – produce the range of ear-splitting screeches and thumps that make up the current evolutions of Suicide material.

Somewhere to his left is a figure of Mork proportions who’s also adversed to too much light if the black-as-black shades are anything to go by. Sculptor Alan Vega could never seriously pretend to be a singer in the traditional sense of the word, but he has an impressive line in Elvis vocalisations, never more so than with his “oooks” and “oooos” on Johnny. Live, these unexpectedly sit atop Rev’s stabbings and bangs so well that it becomes obvious immediately that Suicide have at the very least retained their unique sound through the decades, the splits and the side projects.

Rev has clearly developed the music since the original recordings of the albums. For a man hailed alongside electro gods from this side of the pond – Vince Clarke and Gary Numan amongst them – as influential on a whole generation of synth gurus, his technique seems nothing if not brash. Everything, from Ghost Rider through Frankie Teardrop, sounds louder, far less eerie and far more dramatic, angry even.

Time and again Rev’s hand dramatically crashes onto the keys like some divinely demanding limb from above, and the noise, much the same through the whole set, stabs to the central nervous system. It’s brutal, experimental music, and Rev’s never-far-away grin suggests he loves it just this way.

Towards the end, Mork pipes up about Vietnam. The backpacker destination? No – the war. And yes, he is that old. He’s done his bit, he tells us, and now it’s our turn. We’ve to “stop buying their shit”. But politics for Suicide is not a sudden issue – Rev told musicOMH back in 2002 that “Suicide has always, in many ways, been a commentary on America and on the direction we felt it was taking… It’s always been a difficult relationship and of course it hasn’t gotten any better.” The faint whiff of anti-capitalism having made itself known, Vega launches into a fully-fledged rant at George W Bush (surely the most villified US president in the whole pantheon of time).

This in turn takes us inexorably to an encore of Cheree. He missed a politcal trick – surely Mrs Blair would’ve loved a dedication, despite the spelling variation.


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More on Suicide
Interview: Suicide’s Martin Rev
Suicide @ Electric Ballroom, London