By Simon Weedn
In Los Angeles’s long, esteemed punk history few bands have risen to such levels of success and infamy as Venice Beach’s Suicidal Tendencies (ST). Blasting out of the beach community at a time when Venice was considered one of the more dangerous parts of LA, ST not only recorded an album that is considered by many to be one of the seminal pieces of ’80s West Coast hardcore, its self-titled debut. The band also went on to evolve its sound and help pioneer the genre of crossover thrash alongside Austin, Texas’s Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity, and other Venice acts No Mercy, Beowulf and Excel. With its rumored gang affiliation, distinctive Los Angeles hood appearance and some of the heaviest riffs, rhythms and vocal delivery around, ST established itself as a force to be reckoned with early on. Whether being championed by punks for its classic anthem of teenage angst “Institutionalized” or being praised by metal heads for its blazing guitar work on songs like “Trip at the Brain” and “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” Suicidal Tendencies’ mark on music refuses to fade. Helmed by lead singer “Cyco” Mike Muir, Suicidal Tendencies—in its many line-ups—has consistently brought a style and authenticity to the genres they fall into that can neither be replicated nor effectively imitated.
This year marks the release of Suicidal Tendencies’ first studio album in 13 years, appropriately titled 13. The album has been 10 years in the making and maybe some of the credit for its immense diversity can be given to the amount of time it took to put it together. “We got our own Pro-Tools studio in 2003,” says lead singer Mike Muir. “You get something like that and then you don’t have the limitations of having to go in for three weeks here and there . . .” Never satisfied with staying committed to a particular sound, 13 shows a band that is continuing to grow and evolve its sound while staying true to the style and ideas that made it interesting in the first place. While its debut single “Cyco Style” might be the clearest revisiting of its metal era, even that song pushes the band forward with the incredible rhythms of drummer Eric Moore. Songs like “Smash It” and “Till My Last Breath” showcase ST’s integration of funk into its metal/punk cocktail in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy or forced. “This Ain’t No Celebration” and album opener “Shake It Out” will easily quench anyone’s thirst for true to form ST thrash. As Suicidal Tendencies find itself in the midst of its Slam City Tour to promote its new record, there should be no doubt that any tune off of 13 should induce the whirling, cyclone-like mosh-pits that the band’s music has been generating for decades.
In addition to a new album, this July is the 30th anniversary of Suicidal Tendencies’ self-titled debut. The record, which was released on legendary LA punk rock label Frontier Records, and produced by, now internationally regarded music and skateboarding photographer, Glen E. Friedman, is considered to be one of the most important albums of the Los Angeles hardcore punk movement. “I still think it’s a great record,” says Muir. “It was me at my best and my worst at that age.” The album displayed from the outset a band that was not afraid to speak its mind and challenge its audience, even in the face of controversy. The band stirred up a great deal of debate with songs like “I Shot Reagan,” which had to be re-titled “I Shot The Devil” for the record release giving rise to rumors about meetings with the FBI about the lyrics. As well as the now classic “I Saw Your Mommy (And Your Mommy’s Dead),” to which Muir gives insight, “To this day, people still don’t understand, lyrically, what I was trying to get across on that record. Everything in that song was taken from the Los Angeles Times and put into a different form.”
With more than 30 years under its belts, Suicidal Tendencies seems to show no signs of slowing down. When asked further about the future Muir muses, “when we first started off, our first interview, they asked ‘What do you think you guys will do in five years? Where do you think the band will be,’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’ll be a band’ and they said, ‘Well, if you are a band in five years, why do you think that will be?’ and I said ‘It will be because we’ve never done anything we’ve regretted’ and that’s the whole thing. We’ve never done anything we’ve regretted.” With a tremendous album like 13 to its credit, we can only hope that Suicidal Tendencies continues its regret-free existence so that we can continue to bask in its ripping, thrash-filled glory.
Suicidal Tendencies at the Fox Pomona, 301 S. Garey Ave. Pomona, (877) 283-6976; www.foxpomona.com. May 11, 7PM. $29-$33. All ages.