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Proof that punk was more about attitude than a raw, guitar-driven sound, Suicide’s self-titled debut set the duo apart from the rest of the style’s self-proclaimed outsiders. Over the course of seven songs, Martin Rev’s dense, unnerving electronics — including a menacing synth bass, a drum machine that sounds like an idling motorcycle, and harshly hypnotic organs — and Alan Vega’s ghostly, Gene Vincent-esque vocals defined the group’s sound and provided the blueprints for post-punk, synth pop, and industrial rock in the process. Though those seven songs shared the same stripped-down sonic template, they also show Suicide’s surprisingly wide range. The exhilarated, rebellious “Ghost Rider” and “Rocket U.S.A.” capture the punk era’s thrilling nihilism — albeit in an icier way than most groups expressed it — while “Cheree” and “Girl” counter the rest of the album’s hard edges with a sensuality that’s at once eerie and alluring. And with its retro bassline and simplistic, stylized lyrics, “Johnny” explores Suicide’s affinity for ’50s melodies and images, as well as their pop leanings. But none of this is adequate preparation for “Frankie Teardrop,” one of the duo’s definitive moments, and one of the most harrowing songs ever recorded. A ten-minute descent into the soul-crushing existence of a young factory worker, Rev’s tense, repetitive rhythms and Vega’s deadpan delivery and horrifying, almost inhuman screams make the song more literally and poetically political than the work of bands who wore their radical philosophies on their sleeves.
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