My own band, Aeons Abyss is evolving from a studio project, to a live playing outfit … and I am thrilled that our bass player, Leigh “wukong gamesh” has some serious punk metal hardcore leanings. I’ve always enjoyed this style of music, and the main reason for this is the legendary Suicidal Tendencies, who way back in 1983 released possibly the greatest ever punk thrash metal crossover album! … their self-titled debut “Suicidal Tendencies” … and for the record this was 20 days before Metallica released Kill ‘Em All.
Should this album be part of the redux series?? … possibly not, however, my reasoning is that every metalhead should know this album with some proper context … rather than it just being an album with some highly amusing tracks that give you a chuckle (All I want is a Pepsi!), so i felt compelled to write it up!
Firstly, it should be acknowledged that Mike Muir is a lyrical genius. I think he is able to access a part of the brain that is off limits to many, and use words to go really deep into the subconcious, but with a level of street cred simplicity that has immediate appeal … especially for anyone who has relatable life experiences.
For example, the lyrics to I Want More would speak to many:
Don’t want to pump nobody’s gas-I want more
Don’t want to kiss my boss’s ass-I want more
Don’t want to take the first job I find-I want more
Don’t want to dig coal out of a mine-I want more
Slaving in a factory, a different kind of insanity
Feels like I’m locked in a cage
Working like a maniac, gave myself a heart attack
For a job that pays minimum wage
There is not a bad song on this album. The riffs are all catchy as hell. Short, sharp, plenty of groove, absolutely engaging and speaks to the soul. Special mention to the catchy and darkly funny song, “I Saw Your Mommy“, “I Shot the Devil” (was “I Shot Reagan“, until the FBI stepped in) and “Possessed” (amazing lyrics here).
Mike named the band based on the reputation he derived by going nuts at shows. People would tell him that he was crazy and ‘suicidal’. He has said that this was not a reference to killing yourself, but to just going for it and having fun … like taking crazy risks skateboarding to pull off a new move.
After Mike moved out of his home at 16, he and his mates fell into playing music. The usual story. They got some instruments, fucked around on them till some usable sounds came out, and once they realised they could make songs, they started throwing house parties. They’d charge an entrance fee, and use this to cover rent. Through these shows they built a community, and they’d do things like have haircut parties … everyone would rock the same haircut, same bandanna … it was a skate punk metal gang, who were all about the Suicidal tunes.
When they started playing venues, they were drawing bigger crowds than other bands signed to labels. So inevitably they were picked up by Frontier Records. They then hit the road and toured, pretty much surviving on one meal a day (always beans, eggs and if they were lucky, cheese) … At this time, they started breaking in a big way. Their video for their legendary track Institutionalised was picked up by MTV and got some serious airtime. And if you know this song and video, it was only ever going to do well.
I need to talk briefly about the album cover. Iconic! A bunch of dudes, strung upside down on some playground equipment … faces red from the experience, and surrounded by a bunch of home made Suicidal t-shirts (self-made band shirts was another requirement of being able to attend one of their rent shows). This DIY photo is sick … I’d have loved to been their to watch it all set up … fucken hilarious.
The albums that followed saw the band eventually take a path that took them much closer to mainstream thrash. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today (1988), is a killer album. The solo work in the title track by the guitarist at the time, Rocky George is sublime. Also, the song Trip At The Brain is one of their best. The music video for this song features a cameo by John Cusak! “There’s nothin’ wrong with this brain!”
And any video gamer from the late 90s knows Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and the tune, Cyco Vision (1999).
Another story that has stuck with me is from the Clash of the Titans tour (1991-1992), when Mike Muir feuded with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and challenged him to to a fight onstage. The fued was real, but the fight never eventuated, and the pair eventually made friends … but this was a pretty cool story back in the day, and it sure as hell sold a lot of metal magazines! Seriously, the school-yard discussions were bountiful … “Who started it, which band was best, and more importantly, who would win?”
Those that follow the band know that Mike took a journey down the rabbit hole into some serious funk metal with Infectious Grooves but for me, he shines best when donning the Suicidal bandanna.
To close things out, I want to quote some lyrics from Light … Camera … Revolution (1990), and the song “You Cant Bring Me Down”, which I had scribbled in my English text book back in the day (and I’d read it to myself when the teachers were giving me a hard time).
Just ’cause you don’t understand what’s going on
Don’t mean it don’t make no sense
And just ’cause you don’t like it, don’t mean it ain’t no good
And let me tell you something
Before you go taking a walk in my world
You better take a look at the real world
‘Cause this ain’t no Mister Roger’s Neighborhood
Can you say, “Feel like shit”?
Yeah, maybe sometimes I do feel like shit
I ain’t happy ’bout it but I’d rather feel like shit than be full of shit
And if I offended you
Oh, I’m sorry but maybe you need to be offended
But here’s my apology and one more thing, fuck you!
These lyrics sum up a lot of what Suicidal Tendencies is about. Mike Muir does his own thing, from hardcore, to punk, to thrash, to funk, and to skate metal, and he’s always done it in his own style, and with the brilliance of his mind spewing words in a way that only he can. If you don’t know ST’s debut album, listen to it now, as its simply one of the best ever albums, period!