While the members of Suicide are now considered electro pop forefathers – with the hypnotic pulse of their minimalist cybernetic rockabilly reverberating through everything from old-timers Cabaret Voltaire and Spacemen 3 to today's trance techno – Martin Rev and Alan Vega were not always held in such high regard. During the guitar-obsessed mid '70s, Rev's drum machine – driven keyboards and Vega's gutter glam vocals were enough to throw Ramones fans into apoplexy, cause impatient Cars audiences to hurl bottles and knives, and instigate Beligians into full-scale riots (documented on the recording 23 Minutes Over Brussels). Luckily, the pair thrived on confrontation, even claiming to draw inspiration from it.
Suicide first played in 1970 as a trio (with a guitarist!), quickly distilling to the dynamic duo of Vega and Rev (nés Alan Bermowitz of Brooklyn and Martin Reverby from the Bronx, respectively). Initially more of an improvisational performance art terrorist unit with Vega playing the role of a post-(Iggy) Pop, chain-swinging lunatic, the pair settled into writing and recording actual songs by 1975. Suicide's 1977 self-titled debut was a mutant masterpiece that still sounds oddly current, created with only a Farfisa organ, an archaic beatbox, and Vega's street-hustler-channeling-Elvis vocals. Despite (or maybe because of) such tracks as the harrowing 10-minute dramatization of domestic homicide titled “Frankie Teardrop,” the first album found few fans upon release. The poppier second full-length, confusingly named Alan Vega and Martin Rev: Suicide and reissued in 2000, fared little better, despite some shimmery production by the Cars' Ric Ocasek.
The band's 1981 breakup led to some uneven solo efforts, an Alan Vega hit single in France, and the occasional reunion show. While lacking the psychodrama of yore, recent Suicide performances have been called a strong return to form, and are at the very least an opportunity to watch music history come to life, without the projectiles and riot gear.