I strongly believe that music is very contextual and is highly indicative of the moment in which it was recorded or released. However, not everyone will have been around at said moment, or maybe a record or artist only strikes a chord years later when circumstances have changed – never hear the expression “ahead of his time”? – or maybe a record was just kind of missed through poor marketing. Sometimes an album is just very good and maybe in retrospect deserves another chance. Whatever the case may be, this section of “Overlooked or Underrated” aims to retrospectively examine albums that are worth going back to or maybe you just missed them first time round. Lets go to 1990…
When people think of the great Thrash Metal albums they tend to remember records like ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘Reign in Blood’, ‘Rust in Peace’, ‘Among The Living’ or any of the other classics from the big four. Sepultura may also get a mention for ‘Beneath the Remains’ or ‘Arise’ along with Bay Area bands like Exodus or Testament or nu-thrash classics from Slipknot or System of a Down. One band which tends to get overlooked, partly because they came in through the back door of California hard core and skate music, is Suicidal Tendencies.
Probably as a result of the band’s punk roots, Suicidal Tendencies were blessed with a sense of melody, whilst eschewing traditional Metal symbolism, both lyrically and stylistically, often singing about more personal issues such as anxiety and depression. The fiercely intelligent Mike Muir proved himself an astute lyricist and with the addition of future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, who brought a funk influence to compliment the more traditional metal of guitarist Rocky George, Suicidal’s sound found its tropes on the superb ‘Lights…Camera…Revolution’.
“Lights” is most definitely the sound of a band reaching its peak and is surely a forgotten classic of the thrash genre. From the ragingly defiant opener, ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’, through to closing track ‘Go’n Breakdown’ you get ten perfectly balanced tracks of melodic yet furiously fast heavy assed thrash.
The opening track is a masterpiece in itself, super fast riffing with high octane solos blazing away, before the mid-section time changes and Muir’s quasi-rap of home truths – it’s breathtaking stuff. The album then works through a selection of quality numbers like the brooding ‘Lost Again’, the conversely upbeat ‘Alone’ and the funky ‘Lovely’, each one incorporating the Suicidal’s style while retaining individuality in terms of rhythms and arrangements.
Besides the obvious instrumental depth and quality, one of the most striking things about the record is the versatility of Mike Muir’s vocal performance. He can sing slow, aggressive, tongue twistingly fast or even incorporate elements of rap or punk; whatever the situation though, the vocal is never overpowering, always neatly complimenting the band’s musicality. ‘Give it Revolution’ is a prime example, whilst ‘Send Me Your Money’, tackling the issue of TV evangelists, is a superbly catchy, ultra-funky thrash around.
In fact there are plenty of hooks throughout and it’s a very easy record to sing along to, with plenty of earworms; be it the intense ‘Emotion No.13’, the punky hard core of ‘Disco’s Out, Murder’s In’ or the superbly constructed finale of ‘Go’n Breakdown’. Basically, it’s all killer, no filler, even the seemingly throwaway ‘Get Whacked’ rocking hard.
All in all, 1990’s ‘Lights…Camera…Revolution’ is the sound of a versatile band at its best and is an album that successfully challenged the conventions of thrash and brought a lot to the genre in highly listenable fashion. By embracing different styles and playing to their strengths, Suicidal Tendencies came up with one of the most likeable albums of the era that has stood the test of time.
Check out http://www.suicidaltendencies.com/ for more information on the band and upcoming tour dates.