In the Ska/Punk canon, no titan stands mightier than 1989’s Energy, the only album from Operation Ivy. But in 1996, Detroit outfit The Suicide Machines came close to matching that shooting star’s power and prowess with their first album, Destruction By Definition.
The finest Ska/Punk is an elusive elixir, a mixture that’s youthful, exuberant, reflective and aggressive all at once. Destruction exemplified that vitality and balance. Its drums rolled in like an avalanche; its lyrics teeter-tottered between teenage idealism, teenage cynicism and teenage goofiness; and the guitar lines attacked and weaved with strange grace. At their damnedest, the lead vocals sounded like they were being delivered by a man on fire. When The Suicide Machines were good, they were truly extraordinary.
Originally known as Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines, the group created a largely stellar string of records through the late ’90s and into the early ’00s. By the time of their final full-length, 2005’s War Profiteering Is Killing Us All, they were still a Punk band through and through, albeit one more aesthetically aligned with Hardcore than Ska. In 2006, the gang broke up under foggy circumstances, orchestrating several offshoot projects. Within three years, its members were gingerly reuniting as the Machines, and they have since done enough shows here and there to the point that it’s not particularly surprising to see them playing in 2015.
Still, if you’re any kind of fan of Ska, Punk or Hardcore, an opportunity to catch them shouldn’t be ignored. A 2011 Suicide Machines performance I saw in Toledo, Ohio, was utterly explosive, and Destruction (which the band is playing in its entirety on its current tour) remains — now nearly 20 years later — definitive.
THE SUICIDE MACHINES play Thursday at Newport's Thompson House. Tickets/more info here .