New York City in the 1970s was an urban nightmare: destitute, dirty, and dangerous. As the country collectively turned its back on the Big Apple, two musical vigilantes rose out of the miasma. Armed only with amplified AC current, Suicide’s Alan Vega and Marty Rev set out to save America’s soul. Their weaponized noise terrorized unsuspecting audiences. Suicide could start a riot on a lack of guitar alone. Those who braved their live shows often fled in fear–or formed bands (sometimes both). This book attempts to give the reader a front-row seat to a Suicide show.
Suicide is one of the most original, most misunderstood, and most influential bands of the last century. While Suicide has always had a dedicated cult following, the band is still relatively unknown outside their musical coterie. Arguing against the idea of the band’s niche musical history, this book looks at parallels between Marvel Comics’ antiheroes in the 1970s and Suicide’s groundbreaking first album. Andi Coulter tells the origin story of two musical Ghost Riders learning to harness their sonic superpower, using noise like a clarion call for a better future.
There has not been a 33 ⅓ book that is not worth the time and effort to read and seek out the album to listen to afterward. All of them are written about important albums in any artist’s career, whether significant to their success or significant to the culture of the time. Andi Coulter’s exploration of Suicide’s self-titled debut album is no exception but actually the strongest example of the reason why 33 ⅓ books should exist.
Not everyone has heard of Suicide, and if you have heard of them, you might not have listened to a single song. However Suicide is considered one of the most influental and important bands of the time. Consisting of Alan Vega on vocals and Martin Rev doing all of the music, the duo really made an impact with their live shows, getting into fights and making people run. They were known for their abrasiveness, and even though everyone says they cleared out any sort of venue, they were still getting booked for gigs and a large group of people say they saw them live. Thurston Moore came from Connecticut into the city to see several bands, but it was Suicide and Alan Vega strangling audience members with his microphone cord that really brought to think about forming Sonic Youth. Henry Rollins counts them as one of the most influential groups of all time and even was the spokesperson for Alan Vega’s family after he died. Suicide might not have a large listenership, but those who do listen love them.
After reading the book and listening to the album a few times, I can say that I agree completely with the importance that Coulter puts on this band and their music. It is something unlike anything I had ever heard before, and even though it is loud, abrasive, and sloppy, it is also hypnotizing. I hope this brings awareness to Suicide’s originality and brings them more listeners.
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.