Sacred Bones Records (label)
26 April 2021 (released)
26 April 2021
It's hard nowadays to conceive, comprehend and convey the anger, fury and opprobrium Suicide (Martin Rev and Alan Vega) once attracted. In 1978 when supporting the Clash at a concert in Crawley, Sussex Vega had his nose broken on stage by an irate ‘punk’. Suicide’s ideological-technological restructuring, rewiring and reinvention of rock and roll’s energies and forward thrust polarising the perplexed partisan, dogmatic Clash fans trapped in their trad-rock muddied waters.
At a performance in Brussels a full-scale riot broke out. Today’s timid, tepid, insipid troubadours touting their wares ain’t got no such concerns.
Populating their story-telling with deviants and miscreants (dealers, healers, stealers) and pioneering a sound-structure that shook the stale foundations of ‘rock’ nowadays their influence permeates and pollinates popular culture’s core.
Defining themselves as an ‘art-project’ and comprising protean electronics and then futuristic and fatalistic synth-etic soundscapes the duo established an aesthetic that still astounds to this day. Veering from menacing, ominous and portentous metallic drones (‘Frankie Teardrop’; ‘Ghost Rider’; ‘Mr Ray’) the duo were also capable of such seductive sweet spots as ‘Dream Baby Dream’ and 1988’s LCD Soundystem-template creating ‘Surrender'.
Vega embodied a devout belief in rock and roll’s alchemical properties (such as black leather’s transgressive aesthetics and wielding a bicycle chain as symbol of moral panicking delinquency), its capacity for reinvention, release and rejuvenation. An individual who never veered too far from the template yet perpetually activated a process of deconstruction>
Vega, who departed from this mortal portal in 2016 was an ‘artist’ in the truest sense of the word (sculptor, painter, musician, poet etc.). Seeing the equation ‘reaction<>creation’ as the ultimate call to arms, his was a restless, relentless spirit that continually crafted, cultivate and created art-efacts.
‘Mutator’, is the first archival release from the ‘Vega Vault’. Recorded in 1995 – 1996 with Liz Lamere (long-term collaborator who became his wife) and Jared Artaud it’s a fascinating sonic document of Vega’s enduring vision. Never one to rest on any laurels this sounds forward looking and also as a lament to the scenes, source and society such innovative music(ians) had emanated from. In New York, urban regeneration had resulted in cultural denigration and desecration, the vultures of big business erasing cocoons of cheap creative space replacing it with the all-too-familiar energy-crushing iteration of ‘latté-capitalism’ a ‘state of living’ that now pervades all sites of artistic resistance.
This is artfully documented on the elegiac ‘Samurai’ (which has a similar soulful-feel as ‘Dream Daby Dream’) which sees Vega reel off a litany of nightmarish repercussions and sedimented symbols of the American ‘Dream’: ‘missing girls, whose been killing them? … a Cadillac … Officer threatens the kids … point spread … wake up, it’s finished’. Vega emotively repeating and waving ‘Goodbye …’ at the close. A new era ushering in fresh woes.
Opener ‘Trinity’ is a dissonant horrorscape of wailing cries backed by Vega intoning the title monotonously like a defrocked preacher still maniacally tending to his flock. ‘Fist’ and ’Filthy’ have hypnotic, metronomic pulsebeats that finds Vega’s growling, prowling and scowling Elvis-mangling sprechgesang in fine fettle.
Even from beyond the grave Alan Vega is pointing the finger of blame and shaming of names, calling out the hypocrisies of ‘democratic’ autocracies, the commodification of creativity and the bleaching and leeching of the sacred spirit of rock and roll.
‘Destroy the dominators’ he implores on ‘Fist’. Amen.