Forming in 1980, Suicidal Tendencies were born before Heavy Metal became big again, and were initially a punk band. It was four years between their first and second albums, and the introduction of Rocky George on guitar pushed them in more of a Heavy Metal direction. Rob Trujillo, who is currently in Metallica, was in the band in their heyday, joining in 1989 and leaving in 1995, the same year as George. In the following years, the band had extended breaks but have released albums recently and are currently touring.
The first album is very obviously influenced by Black Flag, DRI and other crossover punk bands of the time. By the third album, they were moving more towards Thrash, but as the Metal scene died, they returned to their roots and continue to play a blend of punk and Heavy Metal that is very different to Motorhead, but definitely in the same tradition.
Classics (the albums even a casual fan owns)
How Will I Laugh Tomorrow… (1988):
The first Suicidal Tendencies album was pure punk. The second was more crossover. This album, released in 1988, was pure Heavy Metal. The first single, ‘Trip at the Brain,’ sounded like they’d been listening to Metallica. The title track was slower but still heavy. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘If I Don’t Wake Up’ and ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’ were absolutely state of the art Heavy Metal, with a Suicidal Tendencies twist.
Lights, Camera, Revolution (1990):
Having established their Metal credentials, and with Rob Trujillo on board, the band came up with an album that’s not as strong as How Will I Laugh Tomorrow… but was a huge hit because it boasted some huge singles. ‘You Can’t Bring me Down’ was a huge MTV hit and a great song, and anti-televangelist song ‘Send me Your Money’ was a real blast. By this stage, their early punk fans were leaving them in disgust, but they continued to plough their own road, and this was the height of their commercial success.
Join the Army (1987):
There was a four-year gap between the first album and this one, and so it was no surprise that things had changed. Rocky George started pushing the band in a Metal direction, and the result here was crossover Thrash, a blend of Metal and punk. ‘Possessed to Skate’ was a hit, and the band were on their way. Les Claypool produced this album, which is an indication of the clout they had in the underground at the time.
Next Steps (One step below, but these albums still shine in the catalogue)
Feel Like Shit… / Deja Vu (1989):
In between How Will I Laugh Tomorrow… and Lights, Camera, Revolution, the band released this, an album of covers, a few new songs, and a few alternative versions of the title track of the previous album. As such, it’s a slightly schizophrenic release, but it still has a lot of good music on it and captures the band at the height of their success. The album was their worst charting album before the last two albums, which also fared badly. However, it’s still a worthwhile release.
After 13 years without new material, Suicidal Tendencies really delivered. This album marks a return to a crossover sound that is very punk, but also has a lot of lead guitar and other elements of Thrash. Songs like ‘God Only Knows Who I Am’ push the boundaries, built on a bass groove before the band kicks into a mid-tempo rocker. Songs like this make this album feel like the old Suicidal Tendencies, a band that pushes boundaries and tries new things, not just a band that milks one idea over and over. It’s a sharp contrast to the many albums they had previously released covering their own songs.
The Art of Rebellion (1992):
The last of their “Heavy Metal” albums, this album was less successful than the ones before, and while the singles, ‘I Wasn’t Meant to Feel This,’ ‘Nobody Hears’ and ‘I’ll Hate You Better’ were successful, the truth is, there wasn’t much else to sink your teeth into and it’s not surprising that the band was so out of ideas, the next album was a re-recording of their first album with a few extra songs (two from the second album and a B-side). Although they did one more album after that, this was the point at which they ran out of steam.
Controversial (The one fans disagree on)
Suicidal Tendencies (1983):
Suicidal Tendencies started off as a hardcore punk band. The second album helped define crossover, a style that they play to this day. For many, the band’s greatest achievements were the Metal albums of the late 80s / early 90s. As such, the reception people give this album depends on how much they like punk music, as well as Heavy Metal. Songs like ‘Institutionalised’ and ‘I Saw Your Mommy’ are full of humour and a lot of fun, but for some people, the lack of any sort of guitar solos and the barked punk vocals are too big a barrier to entry. Well worth checking out, but your mileage may vary.
Buy this last (Not all bands have a ‘bad’ album, but this is the worst of them)
After a four-year hiatus, Suicidal Tendencies returned with this album. Sadly, the band had lost any sort of cutting edge they had in the past, and seemed instead to be just trying to channel the anger of a long lost youth. Tracks like ‘Hippie Killer’ were a long way from the intelligent lyrics that had always set this band apart. The band would bleed members and do several CDs covering their own songs before finding themselves again with 13.
Playlist (a killer playlist for your phone)
‘Two Sided Politics’ (Suicidal Tendencies)
‘I Shot the Devil’ (Suicidal Tendencies)
‘Subliminal’ (Suicidal Tendencies)
‘Institutionalised’ (Suicidal Tendencies)
‘Suicidal Maniac’ (Join the Army)
‘Join the Army’ (Join the Army)
‘Possessed to Skate’ (Join the Army)
‘Trip at the Brain’ (How will I Laugh Tomorrow…)
‘Pledge your Allegiance’ (How will I Laugh Tomorrow…)
‘How will I Laugh Tomorrow…’ (How will I Laugh Tomorrow…)
‘If I Don’t Wake Up’ (How will I Laugh Tomorrow…)
‘The Feeling’s Back’ (How will I Laugh Tomorrow…)
‘You Can’t Bring me Down’ (Lights, Camera, Revolution)
‘Send me Your Money’ (Lights, Camera, Revolution)
‘Memories of Tomorrow’ (Still Cyco)
‘Nobody Hears’ (The Art of Rebellion)
‘Shake it Out’ (13)
‘World Gone Mad’ (World Gone Mad)
‘God Only Knows Who I Am’ (World Gone Mad)