Time Bomb Plays Copycat
The Suicide Commandos are an important piece of the history that coincides with the Minneapolis and Twin Cities punk rock music scene. This trio — formed by Chris Osgood, Dave Ahl and Steve Almaas — put out one album, Make A Record, in 1978. Its noteworthy praise paved the way for bands like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü to become icons of American indie rock.
However, after releasing Make A Record and one live album, The Suicide Commandos have been largely inactive until now. Almost 40 years after their last full-length LP, the group have joined forces with Twin/Tone Records to release Time Bomb.
The album starts with the track “Hallelujah Boys.” It is sung by Steve Almaas, whose voice is severely auto-tuned and very high-pitched. The song itself sounds like the opening to a Saved By The Bell-style sitcom. This cheeky sitcom quality is characteristic of other songs by Almaas on this record, such as “When I Do It, It’s O.K.” and “For Such A Mean Time.” “Hallelujah Boys” is the first realization that this is a different Suicide Commandos from that of years past. The band have matured into an entirely new genre and the overall quality of tracks has diminished.
The fourth track, “Try Again,” is conflicting in its positives and negatives. For one, the instrumentals here are perhaps some of the best on the record. The bass line is almost reminiscent of Built to Spill in its calming indie rock aesthetic, and the guitar solo that concludes the song has enjoyable effects, yet does not overstay its welcome. The problem with the song is, once again, Almaas’s vocals, which sound a little too poppy and corny to fit this style of music. These vocals follow the course and tempo of the instrumental section, a feature listeners may nitpick as annoying. The track, overall, as noted before, certainly has strong points and weak points.
“Boogie’s Coldest Acre” suffers the same tackiness that can be found throughout the whole album. By proclaiming to “put that fucking thing down,” the group come off as punk dads trying to show they are still hip to the times. The lyrics are a bit of an issue here. The track “If I Can’t Make You Love Me” goes full baby talk with the line, “You’re an idiot, shittyiot, itty bitty fidiot / What more can I say?” There is a trippy instrumental interlude halfway through that tries its best to redeem that previous lyric, but it is too little, too late.
“Pool Palace Cigar” adds a sense of ZZ Top in its bluesy nature. The track sticks out as it is the first with these blues rock undertones. It establishes a “La Grange”-esque sound with the stereotypical blues riff over which one’s friend might try to sing in high school. And “Ghost Burrito” comes to almost Vanilla Ice levels of close in its imitation of the riff from “Last Child” by Aerosmith. Time Bomb clearly has a problem of trying too hard to emulate others’ successes during the classic rock era, while doing nothing to make the band themselves sound unique.
Time Bomb is not an impressive record by any stretch of the imagination. It is a generic rock ‘n’ roll album without any of the advertised punk for which the band are noted. The garage rock atmosphere of Make A Record is all but gone, and it begs the question as to why the band felt the need to come back after such a long hiatus. Could the legacy of the group be tarnished by the new release? The answer to this is no. This is because the legacy of the group lies not within their musical prowess, but their influence on growing the Twin Cities music scene as a whole. Without The Suicide Commandos, it is hard to imagine The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum achieving the same level of success.