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Monday, 15 November 2004

77/78 - Television and Suicide

Yesterday I bought a couple of new albums from my local Music Zone. This store has radically changed the pricing of CDs in the UK. By selling CDs cheap, they work on the basis that the customer will buy more items. Small margins but big turnover. It works. As a result, over recent months I have been buying lots of music that I used to listen to on vinyl a long time ago. I will happily pay £5 to £8 for these on CD - but not much more than that. The pricing policy of Music Zone has had a big impact on the bigger music stores who have radically cut prices on back catalogue material.

Anyway, this entry wasn't going to be an advert for a record shop. I bought two fantastic albums which sound as good today as they did when I first heard them. Television's first album, 'Marquee Moon' came out in 1977, just as punk was taking hold in the UK. I remember being really impressed with their attitude, the guitar work, the sharp lyrics, and the tightness of the music. It still sounds fresh and alive after nearly 30 years. There is a re-issue of this CD with bonus tracks, but I went for the basic album which is just an excellent exercise in economy and precision. As a band, their tightness of form and total sharing of the space in the music reminds me of jazz rather than rock. All four musicians are working away in every second of the music - but it's music at the heart of rock's new wave of the late 70s, forming a neat bridge between the excesses of late prog rock and the primitive naivete of punk.

A year later the first album by Suicide was released - another band from New York. I bought both their first two albums as they were released, being really excited by the newness of their sound. They were minimal, proto-punk, and yet listening now it's obvious that they were also deeply rooted in rock 'n' roll. The first album is now a double CD with bonus tracks, and two extras on the second CD in the form of a live gig at CBGBs in New York and a live cut from Brussels. The live material is really interesting showing as it does the two extremes of reaction to their work. They live up to the idea that reaction is better than apathy. The crowds that saw their early worked reacted with passion or hatred. There didn't seem to be any middle ground. The Brussels concert ends in chaos.

Suicide's music still sounds cutting edge today - their experiments are still unsettling. The epic track 'Frankie Teardrop' still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

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