The 64-year-old Lydia Lunch retrospectively introduces Suicide as “my first friends in New York”. A case of ‘right place, right time’ for Ms Lunch. Both the punk chanteuse formerly of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and the infamous synth-driven duo consisting of singer Alan Vega and musician Martin Rev were key players within the seminal CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City scene of nearly 50 years ago.
Other players of said scene such as Talking Heads woefully seemed to align with yuppie affluence; the late lamented Ramones now seem to have a chain store T-shirt as their obvious terms of reference, and Blondie is now synonymous with the mainstream bastion of Glastonbury. In Suicide’s case; their influence was far darker and trail-blazing and far removed from any latter ‘lifestyle’ implications.
Their influence and songs (mainly through their first two albums released in ‘77 and ‘80 respectively) were proclaimed and covered by the likes of Depeche Mode, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Loop, Pere Ubu, Primal Scream, even Bruce Springsteen, and, arguably enough, the exponents of the techno genre.
History lesson over. It seems rightful that Lunch in view of Vega’s passing in 2016, should, in her own way, have a piece of the mantle. Aside from the aforementioned association, her most famous collaborations have been mainly male-centric such as Sonic Youth and Roland S. Howard. French electronics-whizz Marc Hurtado is also a key part of the template for tonight’s entertainment.
Here in this TARDIS-like Brighton upstairs venue a stone’s throw away from the “We Are The Mods” scene in Quadrophenia, the diminutive black-clad and black-fringed Lunch mounts the stage from the audience, to clutch her twin microphones in a defiant Jagger-like stance.
The opener is ‘Touch Me’ from the second album. This is a surprising choice but a wholly guttural exercise for Lunch to accelerate her chops and get proceeding going amid lurid orange stage lights. ‘Juke Bone Done’ then follows. This title isn’t technically a Vega and Rev number, but a collaboration between Vega and Hurtado. Obvious terms of reference are initially thin on the ground and pose a definite listening challenge for the audience. No bad thing compared to box-ticking copyist predictability.
‘Ghost Rider’ from the first album is the expected clarion call for head-shaking audience participation. One of the best Side One openers ever and the required amount of adrenaline needed. Both musicians are also fuelled by poignancy; it being Armistice Day, as well as the day of the march against Israel in London. They present a series of songs mainly from the aforementioned Vega and Hurtado collaboration (‘Sniper’, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Bang Bang’, ‘War’, ‘Viet Vet’) which are bone-chillingly shocking in their imagery – with ‘Johnny’ reduced from an all-American tough guy to a disembodied ghost like a disturbing X-rated fulfilment of Love’s A House Is Not A Motel.
‘Harlem’ and ‘Frankie Teardrop’ are the rightful closers, and while Lunch is insinuating us with the young Frankie’s blue-collar predicament, Hurdato conjures up Will o’ the Wisp sheets of ghostly disco-like noise complete with a continuous spoken female refrain of ‘Frankie’: like Studio 54 reluctantly embracing the Summer Of Sam horror.
The gig itself lasted for barely an hour, and was one that was suitably rehearsed which didn’t fall victim to meandering ego-driven improvisation. Lydia and Marc had payed their dues this mild November evening as well as inspiring one to investigate far beyond the Suicide back catalogue. Lunch and Learn.