While mirroring his surroundings over the past 35-years, usually the street, Alan Vega has run into all kinds of decay, injustice and subjects that get him going. He put himself in the boiling head of 'Frankie Teardrop' on the first Suicide album and went off the mental deep end. On his second solo album, Collision Drive, Vega lamented the plight of the 'Viet Vet', the guy coming back from ' Nam minus limbs or brain cells to be consigned by the government to homeless status for his trouble. When Suicide returned earlier this decade with American Supreme, Vega railed against Bush and the war situation. It was bad then, but look at it now. How do you think that's made him feel? And it's been building up for the last five years!
Station is possibly the most brutal, unsettling, ANGRY torrent of vein-busting rage to emit not only from Vega's gullet but really from anyone I can think of. Other artists have been mad before but that's usually been at a partner or someone's nicked their drugs. Lou Reed could do it by hissing choice words. Iggy was just crazed. Here, Vega is pouring out his rage and trying to paint the bleak realities of life in the 21st century by screaming his simple messages as loud as he can over the ugliest backings he can muster. Rusty-nail radio static shadows of riffs, sparing melodies and nerve-crunching jackhammer drum machine beats. Monolithic back alley behemoths with nothing resembling the ballads, rockabilly or techno with which he's dabbled previously.
The maelstrom kicks off with a loop of coruscating sonic gauze before Vega's first growl on 'Freedom's Smashed'. We're immediately in the war zone: drums clattering under a sheer noise attack. The energy is beyond amphetamine or even punk rock. This is inner city psychosis pushing the limits of mental derailment. Sometimes it sounds like the Last Poets' voice and drums transposed 35 years from Harlem into the Lower East Side and electrified. Forget polished up New York though: the whole thing has taken on a much more global significance. Sometimes it's like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music with nuclear beats.
'It has become a crime to dream', declares Vega as 'Station Station' gets under way with screeching riffs, anvil-cracking beat and undergrowth of tormented souls adding to the future-shock barrage. On 'Psychopathia' an icy melody creeps in, Vega sobs and cajoles while voices chant 'psychopath' in a way that does indeed recall the Last Poets. Occasionally a child cries 'mummy'. Halfway, Vega gurgles, cackles and shrieks with chilling malevolence. 'Mums and dads take your kids to deadland' seems to be the message. 'It's made you a man'. More malfunctioning machinery ushers in the gutter-croak of 'Crime Street Cree' whose demented samba-billy rhythm threatens to derail. 'This is as bad as it gets', he howls through the screeching aural chaos. Not quite.
So it goes on, through 'Traceman', ''Gun God Game' and the terrifyingly claustrophobic '13 Crosses 16 Blazin' Skulls'. I thought 'Swaztika Eyes' was going to be a cover of the Primal Scream song but Vega just uses the title to kick off again against a harsh, industrial-strength rumble. 'Why Couldn't It Be You' is a desperate howl, 'Warrior, Fight For Ya Life' his urban manifesto laid bare and it all winds up with the doomsday clatter of 'Devastated'.
I'm writing this as the unforgivable balls-up of the Virginia school massacre unfold, along with America's total disregard for the gun-crazy monster they allow to run riot. The whole episode seems to be like a Vega warning come to life while this album is the bludgeoning soundtrack to a country willing itself to escalating psychosis and unnecessary death ever since Vietnam 30 years ago.
Later in the year, Suicide will reunite to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first album. It's so good to see that Alan Vega's spark and passion hasn't dulled one iota since then. It's just swelled with the times. Few others would desire or dare to go this far. Punks gobbed and bottled him for it on the Clash tour back then. This time you really should listen.
Kris Needs – tMx 29 – 04/07