After its sonic mess of an intro, the second Suicides an Alternative/You’ll Be Sorry really kicks, I feel like I’m back in a time, place and scene I never experienced in real life. This is exactly what I assume certain sections of LA sounded like if you were a punk fan in the early 80s. And I know that seems pretty obvious since this is a release from an LA punk band in 1983. But why and how does it give me a sort of sense memory?
Something so unique to this band, and one of the reasons I’ve always known I needed to listen to more, is the vocal stylings of Mike Muir. He has a certain frustration and desperation to his voice, like he almost can’t believe the world has got to a stage where he has to sing about the things he’s singing about. Like they should have been sorted long before he ever got behind the mic. And the fact that a song titled I Shot the Devil opens with the line, “I shot Reagan”, kind of perfectly explains the frustrations I can hear in his voice.
The speed of Suicidal Tendencies is pure break neck. It’s the kind of speed that means a little over 60 seconds is more than enough time for a few versus, some choruses, a shredding solo and even a bridge here and there. And the precision of musicianship on show here means the fact that they can accomplish all of this at such frenetic tempos is nothing short of amazing.
Thanks to its “funny”, perfectly built for MTV video, along with Muir’s spoken (yelled) word delivery, I think Institutionalized has been unfairly written off as a novelty or gimmick song over the years. But it’s so much more than that. Its lyrics are little obvious and on the nose, but Muir was barley 20 when this record was recorded. And I’m OK with obvious and on the nose form someone that young, if I can hear that they really mean it.
After another two-songs-in-three-minutes punk rock assault with Memories of Tomorrow and Possessed, things get little more playful on I Saw Your Mommy. Another story telling approach in the vein of Institutionalized, it also shows the other great strength of Muir’s voice. What it lack in range, it more than makes up for in shit eating smarm. The sarcasm dripping form every word is the kind of thing I would hate if it was ever aimed at me. But hearing it spat at the subjects of his songs, it just makes me like him and the people he’s singing at more.