Words by Chad Kessler, MIMC photojournalist
Artist – The Suicide Machines
Album / Label – Revolution Spring / Fat Wreck Chords
Rating – 9.5 / 10
First things first, I’m probably the least qualified and most biased person to write a review of this album. The Suicide Machines have been my favorite band since 1996 when I stole my dad’s copy of Destruction by Definition. I have their skanking Kevorkian tattooed on the back of my leg.
That being said… I’ve broke up with other bands in the past. You could throw Revolution Spring, Destruction by Definition and Battle Hymns in a hat and not be able to order them chronologically, and that’s not a bad thing! The Suicide Machines have stuck with the same message for the last couple decades, not quite as long as a certain senator… but still.
Sonically, this album feels so much better than some other bands I’ve listened to for just as long, simply due to the lack of overproduction/editing. Stop autotuning and quantizing everything! Or maybe they’re just that good, what the fuck do I know? Overall, the feel is more positive than some of their more recent releases (ie. 15 years [War Profiteering]) despite the subject matter sticking to the same. I can’t help but wonder if that’s due to band members having other outlets for their nihilism. Anyway, modern ska has always been happy music with depressing as fuck lyrics.
Now, my off-the-cuff thoughts on each track from their debut Fat Wreck Chords full-length release.
1: Bully in Blue– It sounds as though it’s straight off Destruction by Definition, and it’s totally on point. Check your privilege. The lyrics address police prejudice. Gang vocals are new addition to the band’s sound.
2: Awkward Always – It has a definite ska feel with depressing themes coupled with happy music. It could easily be their choice for a single, if that’s still a thing. The song is about the plight of all of us punk/skateboarder/outsiders… about getting older and still being an outsider. It’s forever relatable and at this point in my life I’m convinced we’re all really just seventh graders pretending to be adults.
3: Babylon of Ours – It has heavy reggae vibes and is very in line with the band, without reminding me of any specific songs.
4: Flint Hostage Crisis – It carries Battle Hymns vibes, for sure. Fun fact… I got this album for Easter and listened to it on the way to church that morning. Initially wasn’t super into the screamy vibes, but I now love and understand it.
5: To Play Caesar – Did I mention yet that Alex the guitarist is also the drummer in Hellmouth (Justin and Jay’s other, very Thrashy band)? Check it out when you need to vent.
6: Trapped in a Bomb – Reminds me of something off “Steal This Record” (solid album, but different vibe than DBD/BH). Everyone is definitely pulling their weight as a musician.
7: Detroit is the New Miami – It has a heavy Battle Hymns vibe; their second major release saw more angst and urgency to the issues being addressed. It mirrors War Profiteering.
8: Eternal Contrarian – I can’t find anything to say about this song. I don’t hate it, but it might be the “Vans Song” of the album. Or, maybe I’m just being contrarian. It’s still catchy as hell, though.
The Suicide Machines – Anarchist Wedding
9: Well Whiskey Wishes – It’s a break from (original guitarist) Dan’s guitar style, and I love the tempo changes. It has a fast/half tempo/ska break.
10: Black Tar Halo – It’s War Profiteering meets Hey Ska. I feel like the opioid epidemic is a very Midwest thing, and not something I hear bands from the coasts (east and west) addressing.
11: Empty Time – The bass and drums really shine. It’s a great introduction for people new to the band or genre, and everything is incredibly busy. Maybe that’s why some people don’t care for ska or any of its offshoots. To which I say… sucks to be them.
12: Impossible Possibilities – It’s ska forward. The band has always had a positive streak, with a call for unity, social progress, and definitely BernieSanders-core!
13: Potter’s Song – It carries the same vibe as Impossible Possibilities, just faster and real heavy on the DBD feel.
14: Simple – Ooh, a high-pitched solo to open the song before settling into upstroke ska. It’s the most positive song on album. I wonder if Jay is venting through Hellmouth more? I love the horns! I would wager, given Less Than Jake’s involvement, that it’s their horn section. Breakdown very LTJ as well.
15: Anarchist Wedding – It’s possibly the cutest love song ever. Let’s smash the system together!
16: Cheers to Ya – More Horns!!! Officially the horn-heaviest album in their career and I’m not complaining. This album sounds like it could have easily been a 1997 follow up without feeling in any way dated. So happy they’ve stuck with an organic sound. So many new bands are overproduced/digitally edited.
Overall? 9.5 out of 10, just because it’s impossible to top Destruction by Definition.
Photo gallery images from Camp Anarchy 2019 (credit: Chad Kessler)
*bonus points if you find nubs…