Suicide's best album
Stranger | Spain | 10/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though many critics (largely self-appointed ones) and fans will probably disagree, the truth is that "A Way of Life" has always been the most consistent, diverse and musically complex of all Suicide's albums. In terms of pure sound it is also their least dated work and constituted a brilliant update of the group's signature in 1988. Unfortunately, it's always been pretty underrated, usually because of the enormous degree of mythologization that their two first records have enjoyed in the underground scene throughout the years. Of all Suicide albums this is perhaps the most difficult to pinpoint as it falls into a kind of middle ground between their seminal first years and their more mediocre recent activities as a duo ("Why be Blue", "American Supreme"). The sound featured on "A Way of Life" is therefore the hardest to label as it is quite different to anything Suicide has recorded before or after; that's the reason I think it is precisely the one who best provides the listener with a general feeling about Vega's and Rev's usual themes and their fiery conception of music. In a way it's like a review of their past and a prediction of future approaches, the perfect summary of their career so far and a step into whatever else was to come.
Ric Ocasek's production is stunning in this their third full-length album and it perfectly encapsulates the obsessive dynamics of the ominous and suffocating sequences played by Martin Rev. For his part, Alan Vega's lyrics depart from the occasional simplicity of past releases and become more elaborated ("Rain of Ruin", "Dominic Christ"). The blend of his vocal performance along with Rev's powerful rhythms results into one of the best and most seductive albums of the late 80's (the disturbingly infectious "Wild in Blue", "Devastation" and "Jukebox Babe '96" are good examples). You can almost perceive a sense of danger and menace in the air each time you give it a spin -well it's difficult to explain-. Of course, as usually occurs with music which dares to go beyond the ordinary, this awesome record went almost unnoticed and it's still a quite unknown release to this day.
All the tracks are indeed very good, "A Way of Life" is one of those albums with no filler at all. It doesn't matter which track you hear first, they all seem to come out right whatever the order you play them. Until recently, this album was very hard to find on CD so this reissue by Mute records is very welcomed. This expanded version includes a superb bonus track (the hypnotic "Heat Beat") and an additional CD containing a live performance in London. The sound has been digitally remastered by Martin Rev and the lovely "Surrender" (one of the most beautiful synthesised ballads ever recorded) has been remixed, differing markedly from the original L.P version but still very satisfying (I've always wondered... how could it be that this song wasn't a big hit?).
A gem to be rediscovered and one of my big favourite records. A pity Suicide hasn't achieved this same level once again since this great album was released.
Not to be missed, this is Suicide at their finest.
Enhanced with a second disc of live versions
Pieter | Johannesburg | 09/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
A Way Of Life was produced by Ric Ocasek of Cars fame. It is slower and somewhat less passionate than Suicide's seminal first album, showing less of the psychobilly style in favour of slower, more atmospheric pieces. Way Of Life includes Jukebox Baby, a different version of which appears on Alan Vega's 1981 solo album.
Wild In Blue is an atmospheric electronic number, whilst Surrender is a sixties style love song with lovely female vocals, not too far from Elvis or Frankie Valli. This original version of Jukebox Baby 96 is slower than the aforementioned track on Vega's solo album, but still full of urgency, that pumping rockabilly beat and Vega's excited gasps and shrieks.
Rain Of Ruin with its prominent guitar sound is an ominous drone whilst Suffering In Vain has a slower beat and mostly subdued, half-spoken vocals with some anguished growls. With its insistent beat and varied vocals, Dominic Christ is quite interesting.
Love So Lovely has a great pop riff, droning guitar and synths with a fast rhythmic texture; it is one of my favorites on this album. The uptempo Devastation has glockenspiel infusions over a droning beat, offering a very evocative aural impression together with the expressive vocals.
The second disc contains live versions of Dominic Christ, Johnny, Cheree, Devastation, Jukebox Baby 96, Girl, Surrender and Harlem. It perhaps better reflects the awesome power of Suicide at their best, and makes this CD an essential purchase for fans.
But A Way Of Life does not represent the best of this great pioneering band. Perhaps, in an effort to make the sound more accessible, Ocasek produced some of the magic away. I recommend the aforementioned First Album, Half Alive, Ghost Riders and certain of the solo albums of Alan Vega like Collision Drive and Saturn Strip.
Back to the Beat
Daniel Mintz | Eureka, CA, USA | 06/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After being amazed/hypnotized by Suicide's first album, the second one's drier, slicker sound seemed to undermine the band's dark power. Since Ric Ocasek was the apparent culprit, I skipped A Way of Life when it came out several years later with Ocasek's name on the production credit.
Only now catching up with this excellent 2-CD re-issue by Mute, I see Suicide's third try reintroduces a dense, mesmeric sound. With driving synth-bass and drum patterns as its foundation, A Way of Life is more insistent and shadowy than the second L.P. and anything they've done since.
Martin Rev's pulsating electronics really carry the show here, and while Alan Vega's vocals only approach the ghost-of-Elvis crooning that established the first L.P. as a contender, they still strike near-gothic heights (and depths).
With the exception of the maudlin (yet spooky) pseudo-1950s romancer I Surrender, Way of Life lets loose one trance-inducing electro-throb after another, with the catchiest of the lot being the pace-setting opener, Wild in Blue, and the entertainingly intense Rain of Ruin. Love So Lovely delivers a fast-paced nod to the sound and atmosphere of the first album and Devastation, the original issue's downbeat but swinging closer, effectively updates it.
There are occasional letdowns on the drum patterns, which at times lack bottom and sport sadistically metronomic snare strikes. But with an excellent bonus track, Heat Beat, and a second disc of an alternately intense and comical 1987 live show (hearing Vega start to sing Cheree to the audience's roaring delight only to proceed to maul it into an unrecognizable mess is probably worth the cover charge alone) this re-issue is essential for Suicide admirers and those who like electronic rock music that's propulsive, repetitive and drug-friendly."