Martin Rev: self-titled

Charlotte Robinson

Martin Rev

Martin Rev

Label: ROIR
US Release Date: 2002-10-29
UK Release Date: 2002-10-07

There were lots of good reasons why 2002 was the perfect year for ROIR to reissue the 1980 solo debut by Suicide's Martin Rev. It was the year of punk's so-called Silver Jubilee, the 25th anniversary of the biggest year in the ironically anti-nostalgic pop movement of which Rev and collaborator Alan Vega were pioneers. It was the year of electroclash, a genre of synthesized music infused with punk attitude -- which might be just as apt a definition of the music Suicide made decades ago. And then there's the fact that the members of Suicide themselves felt the time was right to reunite for the Mute album American Supreme, their first in a decade.

This is actually the third version of Martin Rev to hit the market. The original 1980 release on Lust/Unlust Records comprised just six tracks, while a reissue on Daft Records added two bonus tracks, "Coal Train" and "Marvel". The new release includes all those tracks, plus three additional songs recorded at the same 1991 sessions as the previous bonus tracks. Spanning 60 minutes and 11 songs, the latest version of the album is nothing if not a bargain. But Martin Rev provides something besides value -- a glimpse into Rev's songwriting at a time when he was still a full-time member of one of the most influential bands of the past 25 years.

There are enough similarities between Rev's first solo album and his work with Suicide that it's easy to see what he brought to the collaboration with Vega. Suicide's songs range from classic pop to the dissonant and nearly unlistenable, and Martin Rev is no different. The album opens with "Mari", a slice of gooey-sweet synth-pop that -- and this is not a put-down -- wouldn't sound out of place on Depeche Mode's debut. It is not representative of the entire album, though, as we find out on the next track, "Baby Oh Baby", the only song to feature vocals and the one that sounds most similar to Suicide. Adopting the same deep, deadpan voice that Vega often uses, Rev offers up robotic come-ons that are as scary as they are sexy ("Oh baby oh baby / Tonight tonight") over a repetitive synth line and what sounds like mechanical imitations of jungle sounds. "Nineteen 86" is equally ominous, starting out with clanging church bells over industrial noises, building up to a frantic drone, then petering out like a chugging train losing steam. The final three tracks of the original album -- "Temptation", "Jomo", and "Asia" -- are fairly cerebral variations on the theme of juxtaposing industrial and melodic noises (chimes, bells, organ), and varying tempos and volume to create tension. The latter two tracks bring to mind Krautrock and the instrumental work of Brian Eno and demonstrate that Rev's musical knowledge and talents are less simplistic than they might initially appear from his work with Suicide.

The bonus tracks, which comprise half the disc, were recorded a decade after the original album, so it's not surprising that they are somewhat different in tone. Despite its rugged title, "Coal Train" is a straight-ahead pop/rock instrumental so un-industrial as to sound polite; "Wes" is similarly straightforward. The epic-length "Marvel" fully exposes the ambient tendencies only hinted at on "Asia", while the brief "5 to 5" shows Rev can explore avant-garde territory in a mere two minutes. The doo-wop closer "Daydreams" sounds out of place among the ambient experiments, but it's the most fun of the bonus tracks and brings to mind the '50s pop influence heard in Suicide songs like "Cheree" and "Johnny".

In its new version, Martin Rev is an erratic and sometimes exhausting listen. Given that it veers from industrial to ambient to synth-pop to doo-wop, it's understandably not the most consistent of listens. Still, it's an interesting one, and its first six tracks reinforce the assertion that Rev was 20 years ahead of his time.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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