Cover Image: Suicide's Suicide

Suicide's Suicide

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Member Reviews

It is book that focuses on music band Suicide.
It is written in an innovative style.
It starts with description of unrest in USA youth and rise of antihero with Stan Lee unleashing Ghost rider and similar stories.
How this antihero affected all 
The band which was unconventional is described with focus on biography and cultural impact wthe band.
It is not a simple boring biography but different like the band it describes.
A book for people who love music and revolting music stars.
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Andi Coulter's biography of Suicide's first album ventures a bit away from the 33 1/3 formula. Instead of neatly tracing the history of the creation of the band's strange and groundbreaking LP, Coutler decides instead to tell the band's story through their concerts. Because he believes that this is precisely where Suicide shine and how they should be experienced - Martin Rev's loud, pummeling synths and Alan Vega's imposing and unpredictable stage presence. As a result, the book is more like a bunch of snapshots of the two artists playing, meeting each other during concerts, forming a band and playing together, and just a tiny bit about them actually recording the album. As such, it is a failed attempt at telling the band's story.
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I read this book in one day. I love this series even when I don't know the album. This book taught me a lot about a band I knew nothing about. Well written and informative.
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"Suicide's Suicide" isn't really about "Suicide", but about Suicide. Coulter tells Suicide's story in a novelised form, thinking this will make their story more approachable to someone new to the band. But what kind of person picks up a book called "Suicide's Suicide", but someone who likes the band already, and isn't afraid of a bit of complexity?

I kept wondering which bits and details are "true", which parts are fantasy, all of which is quite boring and more than a bit distracting. The book isn't a bad band history, but I am left wondering who this is for.
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I love the band Suicide and this was a nice, concise history of their genesis and the making of their classic self-titled debut. The author does a good job of spicing up the biographical info with some interesting writing. If you're new to the band and want a good primer, this is a great starting point.

However, trying to wedge information about Marvel's Ghost Rider into the narrative felt tacked on and a little bit corny. Honestly, I'm glad it turned out to just be a garnish, because I didn't need to trudge through chapters about a comic book character I don't care about just because the band named a song after him.
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Although it tries hard not to be, this is quite a conventional account of how Suicide came together and record their first album.  The Ghost Rider motif which heads each chapter seems a little obvious and I would have liked it to have taken more risks with the narrative (as Vega and Rev did consistently in their approach to music and performance), but this sent me back to that first album and that must be a good thing.
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More than a way of life...

Few bands are genuine game-changers, even the most revolutionary and genre-defining simply rearranging an existing template to create new potentialities. Suicide were different.
Springing from the confluence of the free jazz / avant-garde / art scenes they came, like most truly influential bands, to epitomize a time and place. This was the badlands of 1970s Manhattan, broke and abandoned by federal goverment, the city of 'The Warriors' and Lou Reed lyrics like 'Kicks' and 'Street Hassle' made real.
There had been antecedents to Suicide's sound, but they replaced the somewhat whimsical darkness of, say, The Silver Apples, with a musical and emotional free-fire zone. Uncompromising and (Particularly vocalist Alan Vega) confrontational, they defied audiences to react, provoking a fight-or-flight response ranging from stampeded doorways to an apocryphal thrown axe in Glasgow.
Listen to their studio recordings now and they are doubly resonant with the influence that Suicide have had, Listen to early live recordings and you get some idea of the sheer force they wielded.
This is an impressionist account of Alan Vega and Marty Rev's formative days, from early confrontation to acceptance from those with the ears to hear. It hints at their wide influence with fictive accounts of other artists who then hit the ground running with their own ideas of what was possible.

Thanks to 33.3 Books and Netgalley for this ARC
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"The sky erupted in light, then turned entirely black. This is the story of a city in darkness." Yeah, there are some readers who will find this one overblown, but I was never much for the school of music writing that didn't risk getting at least a little silly. Andi Coulter's basic premise is that there's already a solid Suicide bio available and that, with one of the band now having passed on (albeit much later and less dramatically than early audiences would have expected), a straight factual account would be at once impertinent and superfluous, so this is more a loose fictionalisation. How loose? Someone who knows the official story better would be able to tell you more surely than I can, though I read it as taking liberties in ascribing feelings and incidental details, rather than going freeform with the known facts. How did it feel to be the nascent Suicide, or to watch them? That's where Coulter's interest seems most focused. Which is not to say there isn't factual research here too, like falsifying the oft-repeated story that the duo took their name from a Ghost Rider story called Satan Suicide – not the toughest detective gig ever given there wasn't one, and the band made their debut before the character, but one nobody else seems to have troubled themselves to undertake. Still, there is a strand running through this where Rev and Vega's story is paralleled with Johnny Blaze's. It's hardly a stretch when he's the subject of one of their 'hits', in the loosest possible sense, and there's certainly something to the idea of a link between the way the 1970s saw rock darkening into punk, and Marvel's heroes likewise darkening into antiheroes, both in turn mirroring New York's notorious period of bankruptcy and decay: it makes sense that you'd get a band called Suicide singing about a blazing skeleton in a city that's been told to drop dead. Still, for all that this is a sound angle, underpinned by a clear engagement with the topic, it's undermined by a reference to 'Spiderman', just as the artier side of the equation is let down when 'Anton Artaud' or 'Alan Ginsberg' makes an appearance. As for the use of 'prolix' in a context where 'prologue' is needed, ouch. Charitably, one could note that I read this as a Netgalley ARC, and these typos might be fixed in the final edition, though I'm still not sure what the sentence "They were certainly one of the most musical cult bands around" is trying to do – jazz background or not, I could more readily accept that 'they were certainly one of the most cult musical bands around', or even, given the sonic onslaught, 'they were certainly one of the least musical cult bands around'. As is, if that original meaning was intended, it could have done with some selling. But then that's the risk of ambitious music writing; it will always risk falling flat on its face, and there's bravery in that. And I like that the book isn't some veteran Bangs wannabe (even if it does rate him a little high for my taste), but comes from the perspective of a new-ish fan who wants to make more new fans, someone who came to their revival via the era of Fischerspooner and the Faint. Ultimately I was surprised how much I came to agree with the central argument: "Suicide aren't harbingers of death but instead are possessed by the burning will to live."

I still feel a bit concerned about the section written from the point of view of Bobby Gillespie, mind. Books told from the perspective of murderers, torturers or paedophiles are one thing, but surely there are some limits?
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Suicide's Suicide, from Andi Coulter, is another strong volume in the 33 1/3 series from Bloomsbury Academic. The strength of the series is that each contributor is given a lot of space to decide how to approach their album of choice, and Coulter's approach works very well.

I like to let readers know the extent of my "fanhood" when I review a book about an artist or performer, so... I am familiar with Suicide but never saw a show. When I lived in NYC in the 80s for a time I heard a lot about their shows so I understood that what I experienced with their album was just a small part of their appeal. I would likely sum up my stance, before reading this book, as someone who enjoyed listening to them when I was in the right mood but wasn't really a fan.

This book, coupled with listening to some of their stuff again, has made me more appreciative of their work, both as Suicide and their solo work. Though I admit that I probably gravitate more to their second album. This book offers an almost historical approach, giving a history of how they became who they were and the environment within which they did so. This gives a reader a deeper understanding of what they tried to do as well as being just a fun read. The stories and anecdotes throughout both entertain and educate.

Suicide isn't for everyone but I think if you read this book and listen to the album you will gain some appreciation for what they did. You'll also better grasp why they have been so influential. You still may not put their music on often but you will see a lot of other artist's music through different eyes.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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