Music

Suicide: American Supreme

Ryan Potts

Suicide

American Supreme

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2002-10-29
UK Release Date: 2002-10-28
Amazon
iTunes

DJ scratches and funk guitar samples? No. This must be wrong. This can't be a Suicide album -- where are the minimalist electronic beats? The proto-industrial mayhem? The punk aesthetic? Alan Vega's harrowing, deadpan voice? This was not the sound of one of my favorite musical artists; this wasn't the archetypal synth-punk; this wasn't the music that inspired riots among the punk kids of the '70s. But it was -- and it is.

American Supreme, Suicide's fifth studio album, is a record of experimentation and renovation to one of the most blindingly revolutionary beacons of '70s punk -- and nothing's been the same since. They were exploding New York's circuit before punk was even "punk", yet it was nothing like the three chord bops the Ramones were penning -- in fact, it was completely lacking chords altogether. Suicide were the complete antithesis of punk -- replete with a minimalist two members, a lone keyboard, sans drums or guitars -- yet completely vital to its existence and evolution as an innovative, nihilistic art form.

After a hiatus of an entire decade, Suicide attempt to revitalize the same musical demographic they riled and overturned with their first two albums 25 years prior. But what does the belated American Supreme accomplish? Sadly, not much. "Televised Executions", the opening track with the aforementioned DJ inflections and funk guitar samplings, buries their previous incendiary synth-punk beneath a façade of turntable slices and tired vocals. Of course, Alan Vega and Martin Rev, the duo that have comprised Suicide for over 30 years, would feel a need to reinvent their sonic personalities with touches of diversity and previously alien instruments, but American Supreme accomplishes little more than tarnishing their chrome-plated punk and sending it on a winding downward spiral.

With American Supreme, their curiosity has gone too far -- and it shows in every track. Suicide now seem like band struggling to find their true sonic spirit, like their indelible identity is lost in a whirlwind of mish-mashed ideas that range from one-dimensional house music to uncomfortable and self-conscious turntable cuts. But I simply cannot write off this album this easily. The aural blueprints that exist in the vinyl grooves of their music from 1977 illustrates a band so defined, so confident in themselves that they dismantled everything -- stylistic trends, punk stereotypes and electronic music's ability to rage as true rock 'n' roll.

Now, with 25 years of reflection and experience, they've gained age and lost their edge. American Supreme is merely a flickering nightlight lost in the expansive shadow their first two albums continue to cast. It mars Suicide's once revolutionary synth-punk infrastructure and builds stories of boring beats and wandering musical ideas atop it, leaving you unfulfilled, uninspired, and jaded. American Supreme sounds dated, stale, and self-conscious. It's just a good thing Suicide's '77 self-titled album sounds like a future so fluorescently bright and bracingly daring that it fulfills the very void American Supreme vacates.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image