Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alan Vega Commits Suicide

"There was a time when you could dream. Now, now . . . it has become a crime to dream."

'Station Station' - Alan Vega's back singing his lungs out for a crowd of "dream losers". Everybody's favourite viet vet with the signature scarf on his head is back in top form with an industrial trip hop album that makes Ministry and the Revolting Cocks sound like Timberland on poppyseed sticks.

'Station' is a relentlessly painful, semi-tragic, angry album. Vega hasn't lost the conviction from his early days with the seminal Suicide. There is no Ric Ocasek on this latest offering. This ain't no 'Saturn Strip'.

Back in his brief Elektra days, Ocasek thought he could make Vega into a pop star, kind of like an antichrist version of Billy Idol. 'Saturn Strip' rocked but mainstream radio didn't get the joke. Vega's album bombed and Ocasek left the Cars.

Who was this Sal Mineo of rock? Suicide invented the lead singer, mystery keyboard player set against a loud drum machine. This dated back to the Mercer Arts Centre in NYC back in the mid seventies. The Dolls and Wayne County and the Electric Chairs were on the scene. Richard Hell was just a newborn toying around with his mother's safety pins. The Ramones probably had brush cuts and were still in Junior High.

Soft Cell and the Pet Shop Boys took Suicide's primitive two-man line up via drum machine and commercialised it for mass consumption. 'Frankie Teardrop' got raped and re-surfaced again in the eighties as 'West End Girls'. Everyone took their cue from Marty Rev and Alan Vega, but most would never admit it.

Take track three for example - 'Psychopatha'. Vega laments - "Moms and Dads, take your kids to deadland. It'll make you a man. B brain. Get a medal. That's it. Go to deadland. It'll make you a man."

The drum machine crunches in on a war-like stampede. The troops are coming in and we're all doomed. But life goes on in Sucide land. Vega convulses like Rasputin the Mad Monk. This classic Vega with traces of paranoia and disturbing realizations.

'Crime Street Cree'; a 6-minute tour-de-force which puts Vega back on the radar. This is Vega's swansong. "It's the street of no chances. It runs to infinity. This is as bad as it gets. I'm a dead marine. I'm way to young to die."

Vega lashes out with an explosive wall of disjointed atonal synth riffs sandwiched between a machine-like, pulsating beatbox rhythm. He sings of going through hell and coming back on the other side. It's a living nightmare and this song leaves you feeling Vega's anguish and desperation. This is rock'n'roll (but not as we know it).

"The traceman dies. It came from the sky, to die. Lookin' for a human. Why? Ask why?"

In 'Traceman', Vega unveils a distorted mix of vocal samples, female spoken word, jumbled beats in a haze of macabre rhythms. It's another last ditch attempt, a hypnotic plea for help. Stunning, classic Vega.

In 'Gun God Game', Vega delivers his triple G's in spectacular fashion. Orchestral backing vocals on a demented death defying loop and some of his best lyrics in years. . .

"How many time do you need to live out of control. Rip it into that twisted wind. The wave goodbyes, the heavy hearts. It's the takedowns, the breakdowns, the humiliations. Gun God Game. Yeah, the future's determined that you can never beat that game. So why try? Not believing. I can't believe it. Hey, how many times driving to the uncontrollable release of the events twisting all around you? It's there for cryin' out loud. Give it up says the ghost of nothings. Ripping through your heart forever. It's the endless attempts of bringing back what's not there."

Alan Vega is an undisputed genius. Nobody in music can touch him. "Station" is his milestone album. Hail New York City's finest.

Here's a gem from Vega's "Saturn Strip" album. The song's called "Wipeout Beat" - produced by Ric (The Cars) Ocasek.