[26th March 2013]
01. Shake It Out
02. Smash It
03. This Ain’t A Celebration
04. God Only Knows Who I Am
05. Make Your Stand (With Conviction)
06. Who’s Afraid
07. Show Some Love…Tear It Down
08. Cyco Style
09. Slam City
10. Till My Last Breath
11. Living The Fight
12. Life (Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It)
13. This World
Mike Muir is, if you will excuse the slight pun, a hardcore institution. He’s been a stalwart of the scene for the best part of 30 years. His trademark bandana-and-sportswear look is instantly recognisable and often copied. His falsetto vocal style equally distinctive, but not so readily aped by the multitudes of cookie-cutter hardcore bands that have stuck so rigidly to the template laid down in the 80′s.
Muir, however, was not afraid to push the boundaries, particularly with his embrace – along with pre-Metallica bass monster Rob Truijillo – of the funk metal movement of the late 80s and early 90s.
If I do have any hardcore credibility at all, it will probably be cut to ribbons by the admission that 1992′s Art Of Rebellion is by far my favourite Suicidal Tendencies album, and I always had more time for the violently funky off-shoot supergroup Infectious Grooves - but the intervening years between this early nineties peak in popularity and now have not been particularly happy ones. A string of lacklustre albums and numerous line-up changes through the remainder of the nineties dissolved into a long period of relative inactivity.
Which brings us here. Despite playing sporadic shows, 13 is the first Suicidal Tendencies release for thirteen years. It is a slightly pleasing coincidence that it has landed in 2013, and is the 13th release bearing the band’s name. Were you a numerologist, you might read something into that – but you’d also be a credulous simpleton, so I probably wouldn’t take it very seriously.
The last couple of Suicidal Tendencies albums have trodden a more hardcore oriented path, but 13 takes a step or two back towards Infectious Grooves territory, with a few tunes that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the patchy Mas Burracho, the last full Infectious Grooves release from 1999. And with that band reformed and slated to play at the Orion festival, this is probably not an enormous surprise.
But while there are a few enjoyable moments on this album, I am still left with the impression of a band that is just going through the motions. Despite making all the right noises and touching on stalwart hardcore subject matter with titles like “Living The Fight” and “Make Your Stand”, it simply sounds like their hearts aren’t really in it any more.
Perhaps it is the passage of time – perhaps it is the changing line-up – but whatever it is, the songs seem to lack cohesion and -critically – passion. The net result is a collection that is largely inoffensive, but only memorable in the slackness of its execution.
Whilst Muir’s performance is as solid as one would expect, time and again his band feel like they are trying to fill the shoes of Trujillo and ex-guitarist Rocky George, and their feet simply aren’t big enough. Guitarist Dean Pleasants leans heavily on his wah pedal, which masks a multitude of sins, but not completely. “Smash It” carries a reasonable riff that is thwarted by a needlessly fussy drumbeat, and the aforementioned “Make Your Stand” is a mess of styles, none of which are particularly convincing. Repeatedly, bass, guitar and drums mistake simply playing lots and lots of notes for virtuosity, and the results are scrappy at best.
It does all come together on “God Only Knows Who I Am”, which together with isolated flashes of inspiration elsewhere, leaves me with the final impression that Muir would have been better served by ditching the hardcore pretentions altogether and making an all-out Infectious Grooves album instead.
We can only hope that he has so much fun doing Orion that he does precisely that. Suicidal Tendencies, rightfully, are a legendary band, and this messy, unfocused hotch-potch of sloppily played, half-cooked ideas will only tarnish that legend. So, for anyone with cherished memories of the glory years, 13 is probably best avoided.