Suicide Note – Empty Rooms

Suicide Note
Empty Rooms

Chicago-based Suicide Note (Casey Donley; vocals, Jason Gagovski; drums, Jason Golday; guitar/vocals, Justin Golday; bass) are being touted by some reviewers as a band channelling the rebellious nature that rock had apparently lost in recent years. They are described as so different and refreshingly unique that they are almost too difficult to shove into a generic box. For me, this task isn’t too hard, and Suicide Note, to my ears, seem to be travelling a fairly well-worn path into punk mediocrity. This record boasts almost totally indecipherable lyrics; drawled in the style of someone doing karaoke after one too many on a Friday night; and music with so few hooks and so little progression that one song bleeds into another and becomes a sonic soup of dreary sounding noise. I mean, sure this album is certainly full of grimy, dangerous, angry music, but the delivery leaves me wondering if these guys have the balls to back it up and progress with it, instead of meandering into the kind of incoherent messiness showcased here.

Album opener “Truly Hisoric” is all too typical; pounding drum-beat, chugging guitars and screamy, incomprehensible lyrics. This fairly genre-bound opening is not a bad thing in itself, but the song doesn’t progress down any more interesting avenues and burns itself out fairly quickly, finishing with a resounding and determined double drum-beat. The guitars and vocals are reminiscent of a less well-developed Eighties Matchbox, especially on songs like “Freud’s Black Muck”, tearing along with a kind of threatening intensity throughout. However, the bass is completely missing in action, following the guitar patterns slavishly and therefore increasing the overwhelming mediocrity inherent in this track. Gagovski, on drums, clearly knows his stuff though, and when he gets chance to break away from the simplistic bashing he has to do for the majority of the song, he throws in some interesting little fills.

“Merci, Mercy” starts off much better, with a truly sleazy, threatening sounding bass line from Justin Golday; this sounds like it could develop into something really great. Unfortunately, the mood is ruined by some inane babbling by Donley; something along the lines of, I think, “Where you going? I don’t know/ Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s not”. Then later on, “Wake up, wake up, wake up” (again, I think), said with a kind of laconic, bored-sounding tone that instills the same feeling in the listener. Granted, later on he does scream the same lyrics; albeit with less ferocity than someone who’s just been given a parking ticket. Throughout the song, annoyingly, there is a sense that the band are about to crescendo into some overwhelming, orgasmic rock naughtiness, ending with smashing up their equipment and anyone who gets too close to them – it doesn’t happen though, unfortunately, reverting back to form and pulling back from the verge of being truly raucous.

“I can’t deny, I can’t think straight” proclaims Donley in “Simple Math”, and I would be inclined to agree as this song has left me feeling, if anything, utterly confused. I’ve been told this is supposed to be representative of some kind of internal dialogue with a voice in the speaker’s head, with Jason Golday’s miraculously similar sounding vocal style offering a refrain to that of Donley’s typically bored and slurred sounding impression of a man on the verge of madness. Let’s just say, by this stage, I’m not buying it.

Final song, “Black Snow”, is as noisy and ferocious as it gets, trying ever so hard to convince us that here really lies the rebellious, testosterone-fuelled mayhem that we’ve been missing for so long. Admittedly, this is slightly better than the rest; with a particularly great bass line sliding around in the background and the drums frantically pounding away, trying to keep this song on the rails; and for the most part this talented rhythm section do a valiant job.

I may sound harsh, but for me this just isn’t “refreshingly new” – it’s simply noisy; something that a lot of bands can do and that many can do better than this. It isn’t cathartic, as there’s no sense of real anger, bile or anything really in the vocals or in the sound of the music. This has been done, and is still being done, more successfully by other bands. Notably, sleazy sounding noise and properly mischievous, rebellious behaviour was something that The Icarus Line were particularly good at peddling back in the day (particularly, the Penance Soiree era) and LA-based Wires on Fire are certainly better at peddling the kind of angry, ‘I’m probably going to smash your face in if I can be bothered’ type rock Suicide Note are going for.

Perhaps it’s a work in progress for these guys – but this doesn’t cut it for me.