Released: 2013, Suicidal Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
An open letter to Mike Muir:
First of all, let me say how much of a fan I am. I was 12 years old when I first heard HOW WILL I LAUGH TOMORROW…and man, what a life changing experience that was. The pain in your voice and your choice of words resonated with disenfranchised youth all over the world; you were able verbalize the passion, angst, and overbearing emotion that so many of us felt, but couldn’t do so ourselves. It made me go back and become familiar with your history – the Venice Beach hardcore of your self-titled debut and the before-it’s-time crossover beauty of JOIN THE ARMY. And it prompted me to follow your career through times both lean and fat. And when you chose to put ST to rest in 1995 after the SUICIDAL FOR LIFE album, I understood and agreed with the decision. You’d said what needed to be said, and it was time to move on. But then you resurrected Suicidal with a new lineup in 1997, and things were, well…different.
The new lineup was fine enough. I mean, c’mon, Dean Pleasants is a more than capable replacement for Rocky George. But then the FREEDUMB album came out. Instead of thought provoking odes of thrashy turmoil, we got songs like “Scream Out” and “Cyco Vision”. It’s like all of the sudden you went on a mission to turn Suicidal Tendencies into some crossover party version of Insane Clown Posse, espousing nothing but the virtues of being “Cyco” (whatever that means), and puffin’ up like a tough guy against some undetermined societal antagonist. It just seemed like and easy out, with not a lot of thought put into it. And then there was the FREE YOUR SOUL album and the SUICIDAL FAMILY comp, and it just seemed like you were turning ST into some kind of lowest common denominator Infectious Grooves hybrid. I gotta tell you, it’s really left a foul taste in my mouth. Yes, I’ve heard these albums. And no, I don’t know anyone who will admit to actually enjoying them.
So when I read in the press about the imminent release of 13 and all the hoopla around it, I kinda got excited. 13 songs, 13 years since the last full length, 13th studio album, depending on how you’re counting – I get it, nice. And I was hopeful that this would be the album that you got back to business with, that validated my sticking up for you and standing by your side all this time (“they’re still a great live band”). But now 13 is on the streets and on store shelves, and I’ve had some time to really give it a thoughtful listen. I’ll say this – it’s the best Suicidal Tendencies album since SUICIDAL FOR LIFE. But it still falls way short of the band’s glory days.
I love the opening of “Shake It Out” to build some anticipation, and how you use the song as a sort of sermon to jazz up the audience (“It’s time to work the demons on out!). And yes, we missed you too. But then you fall back into the same pitfalls. Too many pointless songs about breaking stuff down and standing your ground (“Smash It”, “Make Your Stand”, “Who’s Afraid”, “Cyco Style”, “Slam City”), all using a fraction of the verbal prowess that you used to be able to elucidate such actions with. It’s concerning, really.
But the music on those tracks is AMAZING. Like I said earlier, you’ve done fine with the new lineup. Dean Pleasants – check. New bassist Tim “Rawbiz” Williams is, f@#king PHENOMENAL. The guy totally gives Trujillo a run for his money. It’s just really a bummer that such colossal funky runs and ripping licks get wasted on juvenile lyrics that don’t go anywhere. But, despite my gripes – there are some gems on 13. “God Only Knows Who I Am” is a spacy jam that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on THE ART OF REBELLION, and the last three tracks on the disc are superb. “Living to Fight” is a groovy shredder that sounds like a deep cut from LIGHTS…CAMERA…REVOLUTION and “Life…(Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It)” is a sweeping and moody tune that hints that you’ve still got some rounds in the chamber. And closing track “This World” is a beautiful, anthemic tune that I’d much rather sing along with instead of continuing to shout “Cyco This” or “Cyco That”.
In closing – I hope that you don’t take this as a hater’s rant, because it’s not. I write this because I care. I’m still a fan, I’ll still be in the front row when you come to my town in May, and I’m still listening to 13 as I write this. It’s not necessarily the album that I wanted, but it’s the album that I got, and it’s got enough redeeming value to merit repeated listens. It’s certainly not as deep as your classic albums, but it’s an upbeat listen that’s heavy on the fun, but short on substance. I hope that it doesn’t take another 13 years for a proper Suicidal Tendencies disc , and I hope that you find that fire in your soul that inspired tracks like “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and “War Inside My Head”. Whatever the case - still a fan, always a fan.
Hugs and Kisses