Putting Alan Vega’s Influence Where It Belongs

Alan Vega’s greatest moment after the first Suicide album is “Cubist Blues,” made with Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn in 1996. I formally reject tributes and obituaries that fail to mention this record. Proof:

And I’m not feeling Pitchfork’s listicle of 15 songs indebted to Suicide’s Alan Vega. First of all, lists like this are idiotic to begin with; with hindsight, anyone’s influenced by anybody. You’ll hear what you want, limited to what you’ve heard. But let’s skewer their list anyway.

Obvious choices like the Cars’ “Shoo-bee-doo,”  or Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” or LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing my Edge,” are rightly included, mostly because their authors admitted Suicide’s influence in each instance. What needed mentioning is Springsteen’s need to also admit “I’m On Fire” was Suicide influenced, and how he also needs to provide receipts as evidence that he at least bought Alan Vega lunch, or a car.

Early Human League? Sure, if you plan to include hundreds of proto-new wave electro bands, including superior choices like the early albums of Simple Minds,  early The The, early Orchestral Manuevers in the Dark, or even early Eurythmics, whose smash “Sweet Dreams” has more in common with Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” than anything by Human League.

Dirty Beaches? I dig them, big, and I’ll give you that one, although I think Dirty Beaches is an influence removed from Suicide, in that “Speedway” sounds exactly like Gallon Drunk’s first three records, all of which owe a huge debt to Suicide, especially 1991’s “You, the Night, …and The Music.”

 

Cybotron? No. Jesus and Mary Chain? Nah. They didn’t confront audiences at all, and I was there. 20 minutes and out, no one ever rioted, and the bands before and after probably used feedback too. JMC was only shocking if you’d been listening to Guns n’ Roses. Spaceman 3: same. Six Finger Satellite from 1995 and Peaches (?) from 2000 are unfair entries, in general, omitting all the bands 1985-2000 who came far closer to Suicide’s sound and aggression, like Atari Teenage Riot, Aphex Twin when he sang, and again: Gallon Drunk, whose 1993 “From the Heart of Town” album spins lyrical odes to cum-legged trousers and puddle-drowned drunks complete with maracas and Farifisa undergirding slurred Heartbreak Hotel vocals.

Sheer lunacy: Pitchfork’s inclusion of Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi is Dead.” That’s a stretch, to put it mildly.

Wolf Eyes? No, because you need to mention Throbbing Gristle, and didn’t.

MIA’s “Born Free?” Nope, and a mess of a song anyway.

I might give you TV on the Radio, only because I saw their first Brooklyn show and the doo-wop influence was unmistakable, clearer, even, than on record.  Algiers, maybe some of it, although a bit too emo for Suicide.

Off the top of my head, here’s what’s missing:

Biggest omission: Wall of Voodoo. No less than a left coast version of Suicide.

Jon Maus, who captures the oddball quotient of Vega’s singing and lyrics:

The Birthday Party. Possibly contemporaries. Definitely Stooges influenced, like Suicide, so I’ll back down on this one if you want. But try and tell me Cave doesn’t do Vega.

 

To not understand Lightning Bolt is to never understand Suicide’s power with repetition:

It’s only party music, but Big Freedia, for sure:

Early Magentic Fields. You don’t think so, but watch:

 

And all things Fad Gadget. At 2:37, Tovey might be jacking off into the monitors.

Early Cocteau Twins. Screw you. Frazier’s the female Vega, singing in an invented language, fearing nothing.

 

 

 

 

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