A reminder of one of New York's most potent voices...

No one was better placed to viscerally document where New York was at in the mid-1990s than Suicide frontman Alan Vega. Downtown Manhattan had literally oozed from his every pore like unidentifiable sidewalk slime since Suicide emerged in the 1970s; only Lou Reed could rival Vega’s ability to distil the essence of what it was like to be (mostly) alive in NYC.

One of a slew of albums Vega recorded at that time, ‘Mutator’ was a complete suite that never got completed. Dusted down by Jared Artaud from The Vacant Lots and Vega’s partner Liz Lamere, ‘Mutator’ bristles with a tantalising – if muted – dark energy. The standout ‘Fist’ finds Vega delivering a typically lysergic sermon over an unflinching electro beat, ‘Muscles’ has a sparseness and fragility offset by Vega’s unpredictable poetry, and ‘Nike Soldier’ has an ominous edge punctured by insistent, clawing electronics.

For the most part, there is a certain numbed detachment here as Vega ruminates on street life, night life, filth, crime, exuberant wealth, inequality and sneakers, but that disconnectedness is somehow as terrifying as any of his early Suicide pieces. ‘Mutator’ is not an epitaph or vault-scraping footnote; it is a painful reminder that New York lost one of its important critical voices when Vega passed away in 2016.


Words: Mat Smith

Dig This? Dig Deeper! Suicide - ‘Suicide’; Lou Reed - ‘Street Hassle’; New York Dolls - ‘New York Dolls’

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