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Thursday, November 18, 2010

CD Review: Suicidal Tendencies - No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family

Suicidal Tendencies - No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family
2010 Suicidal Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

There was a time in music where virtually everyone who made a name for themselves in rock 'n roll, blues and country from the fifties to the early sixties were called upon to re-record their catalog in the seventies for later generations. Sadly, most of the reduxes were contract filler hogwash yet again rearing their ugly heads these days in dollar CD bins. You know you have to be careful buying the greatest hits of Jerry Lee Lewis, The Platters and Little Richard in these bins of sins because you're simply not getting the real deal.

Not that it's a complete sin for musicians to re-record their old classics; in fact, you're seeing it become vogue as bonus material for triple pack CDs on new albums by Kiss, Foreigner and Journey. Once in an eon, a band revamping skeletons from their closets actually comes off better the second time around. Consult Oingo Boingo's Best O' Boingo for some stellar re-recordings of "Dead Man's Party," "Wild Sex in the Working Class" and others.

Mike Muir is no stranger to kicking out the old jams. Right now, he's riding a trifecta of operable bands with interchanged parts comprising today's versions of Cyco Miko, Infectious Grooves and of course, skate-thrash-core legends, Suicidal Tendencies. In the past, Suicidal has re-recorded their debut self-titled album in the form of Still Cyco After All These Years, bits of the past on Six the Hard Way and even the booming EP Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit...Deja Vu contains some dustoffs of past work.

It's been a decade since a proper Suicidal full-length (i.e. Free Your Soul and Save My Mind) has come down the pike. Muir has returned from a self-imposed exile to unleash the hounds courtesy of all three of his bands and the malleable Dean Pleasants helping the cause in each. Mainstay shredder Mike Clark keeps the faith with Muir, and what we have in the midst of this dizzying array of 'core chaos are Cyco Miko and Infectious Grooves live offerings under one package and now another uncorking of past ditties under the bandana-wrapped banner of Suicidal Tendencies.

Most people are aware that No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family revisits Suicidal Tendencies' 1987 album Join the Army, an album mostly the devout kick up in conversation. The band has sparked its name upon the zany skate punk of the 1983 Suicidal Tendencies album and the crossover speed zone of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today? They even enjoyed some breakout success with their metal-rock-funk-jam experiment, Lights...Camera...Revolution. Interesting that Muir chooses to dip into Join the Army, but that's not the only vibe to No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family. There's a catch, and a damned good one.

At one point in the mid-eighties, Mike Muir drifted off briefly to front the now-forgotten thrashcore unit, No Mercy. If you're going to put some cool breeze (a brisk one in this case) into your past songs, then give your audience something quasi-new to chew on. That's what No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family does, and to be honest, it's the No Mercy re-recordings which are the real standouts on this album.

If the Join the Army cuts suffer anything in translation in 2010, it's a hyper giddiness to please which shoots some of the tunes in the feet. They come off occasionally sloppy and reckless. Even as Mike Muir rips away in front of his current lineup, Ron Bruner often undoes his mission with choppy, anxious fills and rolls which sometimes lack discipline ("I Feel Your Pain...and I Survive" being one case), while Steve Bruner (who is a mean cat on the bass) goes berserk with some satisfying licks, but at times, his note-happy lines are left to flounder alone, as if he's been pranked. Great sound capture (he's a beast on "The Prisoner"), but they don't always serve the flow. The true guilt of Suicidal 2010 with Ron Bruner fielding the Join the Army tracks is letting the dogs out on too far a leash. At least "Possessed to Skate" has the proper verve and "Born to Be Cyco" is the same rip-snorting fun as ever. Listen to Pleasants and Clark have nearly as much fun as Clark with Rocky George back in the day. Cool stuff.

The No Mercy tracks, by contrast, have strict focus and they scorch. With Brooks Wackerman handling drums on these songs, there is a crisper, streamlined effort to these re-recordings which provides bounce, bob and headbanging insanity. Only Muir goes bananas on the No Mercy tracks and you can tell he's sporting wood delivering these bangdango songs. Steve Bruner only embellishes when the songs call for sprinkling, while Pleasants and Clark are spectacular. "Something Inside Me" brings the three into beautiful harmony set to a mosh tempo. The soloing on "Come Alive" and "Love Runs Red" once again heralds the George-Clark era of Suicidal, even as this is a wholly different entity they're heralding. Wah-scratches, wailing and well-laid beat structures do the No Mercy songs justice.

Nearly a writeoff, Mike Muir and company save this venture by delivering a hefty second half, while the entire enterprise is a speed skate love affair. The old school will want to strap on the Chucks and dig out the Nuke Boy for a nostalgia ride after hearing this.

Rating: ***1/2


DPTH International said...

I've always enjoye ST's "Join The Army". More so because it was one of the first albums I bought of theirs. I like the remakes, but I'll always prefer the originals.

I love the No Mercy covers. I'd love to be able to track down their album.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I don't hate JTA like a lot of people do, but I reach for the s/t and How Will I Laugh quicker. I agree wholeheartedly about the No Mercy covers. Those kept this project from being non-mandatory. With the NM tunes on here, it IS pretty mandatory if you follow Muir and his doings. Salud.

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