The Formative Years – Welcome to Venice
It must have been in 1990 that I first came across the Welcome to Venice compilation.
I was instantly hooked and made it my mission to find out more about each of the contributing acts, specifically Suicidal Tendencies, whose self-titled debut album was glued to my turntable once acquired.
While it was clear that ST was essentially a punk band, their crossover approach marrying hardcore punk with virtuous solos, metal and groove along with their idiosyncratic aesthetics were unlike anything I had grown to expect to emerge from California from the often overly melodic fun driven bands released by e.g. Mystic Records, whose charm was often found in the utter dilettantism.
The gang culture and resulting violence surrounding Venice and its bands is well documented and while it added an alure of danger to the mix, what made ST interesting was the other end of the spectrum, i.e. the fact that Mike Muir displayed both a sense of humour, authenticity as well as refreshing thoughtfulness when he e.g. delved into experiences with alienation and depression.
The second album Join the Army solidified their sound and ignited a commercially successful triumvirate of albums, with How Will I Laugh Tomorrow and Controlled by Hated / Feel Like Shit…Déjà Vu, each of which are classic full-lengths in their own right that have stood the test of time.
Light…Camera…Revolution was the first album the release of which I witnessed first-hand and it proved to be both technically and sonically the most refined offering so far with the songs not only being more complex but majorly enhanced by foci set on thrash metal as well as funk elements. A classic, focussed and inspired album.
1992 saw the release of The Art of Rebellion, which is by many considered Suicidal Tendencies’ most “experimental album” – a classification that was more often than not meant as a put down as hardliners saw them loose their edge in a bid to blend in with the new wave of grunge and alternative rock acts.
I consider it a masterpiece.
While staying true to their punk and hardcore roots, with The Art of Rebellion ST managed to grow further as band by skilfully incorporation funk and pop sensibilities, which seamlessly tie into more progressive song structures.
Yes, it was more accessible and melodic yet did not stray from the band’s DNA, instead it saw Mike Muir utilize his vocal delivery even more as an additional instrument, infusing the songs with a new vulnerability without ever running danger of entering lachrymose territory.