It has been 25 years since something interesting happened in the year of 1983. It was Suicidal Tendencies when they launched into the Venice, California punk/metal scene with their classic self-titled debut album.
Take the sound of Black Flag, add a dash of Minor Threat attitude and finish it up with dashes of Bad Brains, Anthrax, and Stormtroopers of Death and chances are you’ll end up with this band: Suicidal Tendencies. You could describe this, their first album, as a collection of noisy, angsty hardcore but you’d be missing something. This record just has that special something though it is not solid and established. It may be the dark humor the band shows to have in songs like the cry of insanity, “Institutionalized,” and the hopeless yet hilarious “Suicidal Failure,” or maybe the obvious fact that it's thrash-influenced, but I guess that all depends on the listener.
The overall sound? Well, as mentioned before, it has the sound and attitude of most groundbreaking hardcore acts (along with the ‘nothing special’ vocals that symbolize the hopelessness of a generation) with hints of Anthrax shown in various shredded guitar solos in some songs like “Suicidal Failure” when the bridge kicks in and Grant Estes busts a wicked fast solo. The record's tempo is also not monotonous. In one song, the band can go from playing mid-tempo My War-era Black Flag influenced punk to playing insanely fast Minor Threat tempo songs.
One could argue that it's not the sound that made this album a timeless crossover classic, but rather the attitude. As said before, Suicidal Tendencies manages to express their ‘suicidal tendencies’ and other dark and depressing topics and mix them with comedy in such a way that you are not left with an album made by a bunch of angsty emo pansies (I mean, how can you look at the cover and not find it the least bit comedic?). The utter genius of this combination can be seen in lyrics of songs like “Institutionalized” ("They say they’re gonna fix my pain / alleviate my suffering and my pain / but by the time they fix my head / mentally I’ll be dead"), “I Saw Your Mommy…” ("I saw your mommy and your mommy’s dead / I saw her lying in a pool of red / I think it’s the greatest thing I’ll ever see / Your dead mommy lying in front of me") and "Suicidal Failure" ("I’m a suicidal failure / I’ve got to get some help / I have suicidal tendencies / But I can’t kill myself"). The album also doesn’t stray too far from the political focus of hardcore with songs like “I Shot the Devil” (originally titled "I Shot Reagan") and “Fascist Pig."
Suffice it to say, this album is a classic of its time, filled with emotion, comedy and all the ingredients that would give this album an even more developed character than most found in a crossover record. I recommend it to any fan of hardcore, any of its derivative forms, and thrash metal. And if you think this was a great album, you’ve still got more to hear.
Like Circle Jerks' Group Sex, Bad Religion's Suffer, Black Flag's Damaged, and the Adolescents' self-titled album, Suicidal Tendencies is essential hardcore punk listening...a true punk classic and a right of passage.