With five albums in 25 years, you can’t exactly accuse Suicide of being a prolific band. That is not to say that their two members aren’t, though. Singer Alan Vega has recorded a number of albums that range from not too great solo work to sublime collaborations in Vaino Väisänen Vega and Revolutionary Corps of Teenage Jesus. Programmer Martin Rev may not have gotten as much attention for his para-Suicide work as his bandmate, but has produced a string of solo albums (of which I’ve heard embarrassingly few).
Now, a mere year after Suicide’s triumphant return with “American Supreme”, Rev has released a new album on small Chicago label File 13. At first, it seems that “To Live” has largely eschewed the pop sensibilities that permeated his last solo release, “Strangeworld” from 2000, in favour of a pounding mechanical machine groove. The opening title track is a relentless industrial grind with Martin Rev’s whispered vocal floating on top, like a ghost haunting your home. It sounds like the very essence of the sunglass cool he and Alan Vega have always embodied, ghost ridin’ to the end of night. The album continues on the same note, but just as it by the end of third track “Black Ice” starts to feel like Rev’s repeating himself, you’re falling headfirst into “Gutter Rock”. The suave mirrorball pop of it is a much needed contrast. It paves the way for the electronic meltdown of "Shimmer", all squeaky electronic noises ricocheting off each other, much like on “Dachau, Disney, Disco” from “American Supreme”. “Places I Go” shows more of the pop side that was on display on “Strangeworld”, with a throbbing romantic nerve that continues the lineage from “Cheree”.
Of course, vocally, Martin Rev might not be an Alan Vega, but his voice still does the job a lot better than many other electronic music vocalists. Not only is he one of the great innovators of electronic rock music, he’s also a capable singer and a great solo artist in his own right.