Suicide By Andi Coulter, 128 pgs.

Dec 03, 2020

This is the 149th installment of the 33 1/3 series, in which authors discuss specific albums. (In my installment, I discussed each of the forty-plus songs on Double Nickels on the Dime.) Writers have license to do what they like, whether it’s following a path similar to mine or getting creative. Here, Andi Coulter writes historical fiction about Martin Rev and Alan Vega coming together as Suicide and recording their self-titled album.

Coulter does a nice job imagining Rev and Vega’s time in the band: the anecdote that worked best for me was her imagining of Elvis Costello walking down Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue from his show at the Paradise to Suicide’s, at the Rat. Beyond this, her description of the band’s live shows—and their often terrified audience—was engaging throughout.

Where the book doesn’t succeed is in its treatment of its stated theme. In the introduction, Coulter discusses mid-’70s Marvel characters like the Punisher, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider (after whom Suicide names one of their songs) and gestures towards connections between the band and these anti-heroes, created by the Marvel staff in the wake of the Nixon administration and Vietnam eroding American trust in government institutions. I was excited to see where Coulter would go with these comic themes. The answer isn’t “nowhere,” but it’s close: after the brief discussion, an italicized paragraph or two at the head of each chapter provides a skeletal thematic framework linking the forthcoming chapter to Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. That’s it. These short passages are the “lens” we’re supposed to use to connect Suicide’s story to Marvel’s antiheroes. Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t do enough to put the theme into focus—it’s on the reader to find the connection between intro paragraph, the chapter, and the anti-hero thread from the intro. I liked Coulter’s writing, but the Marvel connection felt more like an afterthought that something of substance, sadly. –Michael T. Fournier (Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury.com)

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