Suicide - Suicide (1977), 8/10

Suicide’s debut is a one-of-a-kind recording and a listening experience like no other. It has a surprisingly subversive catchiness paired with its disturbing material, the pinnacle of this phenomenon undoubtedly being “Frankie Teardrop”, a ten-minute opening to the second half of the record that maximizes horror and unhinged, emotionally charged vocals over a haunting synth-scape. I was personally introduced to the album by Henry Rollins’ recommendation, and I can certainly see why he was so permanently impacted by this music. Vega’s vocals are at a peak of raw intensity which is what gave the duo much of its live-performance power, and it amplifies the effect of each of these songs. At first listen many of these tracks sound too basic or minimal to host any nuance, but they reveal layers with time. A prime example being “Johnny”, a song that sounds too ironic for its own good, but still somehow injects life into the album just where it is needed, maintaining its momentum and subtle power. This is certainly an album that I would hesitate to recommend to anyone without a strange sense of enjoyment and a soft spot for dark atmosphere, but for those who do it can be quite powerful and even potentially moving. Suicide holds nothing back in philosophy or execution, producing a piece of art that is as existentially intense as it is uncompromising. Without many of the components that we lean into for comfort or reference in rock music, the album successfully leans into its derangement to relay a hysterical and deranged set of performances. What makes the record so practically unsuggestible, disturbing and grotesque is simultaneously what makes it groundbreaking and timeless. Of course, Vega and Rev paved the way for many electronic and rock groups that followed this early example of minimalized experimentation, but this particular album boils down the foundation of their success so beautifully that it outshines anything else they could have produced down the line. The same rock and roll elements that elevate the songs to an ironic sense of ascendancy hold it back from being one of the very best electronic albums, as these performances, despite their power in impact, cannot host that level of complexity or intricacy without compromising their focused vision. Since its release in the seventies, too many advances have been made in form for it to surpass the contemporary giants of the genre. This makes it stand out even more, both in a refreshing way and in an elementary fashion that reminds us of its preemptive experimenting with what would be perfected later on. Still, Suicide is one of the most impressively forward-thinking, progressive and intensely impactful instances of synth music ever recorded.