When Jack Kevorkian and The Suicide Machines first formed at the beginning of the 1990s, they were part of one of more significant musical movements of the last 15 years. A new blend of SoCal punk rock was emerging while the third wave of ska was on the rise. Fusing the raw nature of both styles and setting the standards for others to follow, Operation Ivy exploded on the Gilman Street scene in Berkeley almost as fast as it imploded shortly thereafter, leaving a monumental void in its wake.
Those who attempted to carry the torch in Op Ivy’s absence found themselves slapped with the ska-punk label, which turned out to be a fleeting flavor that burned brilliant and faded fast. Among them were The Suicide Machines (who dropped the “Jack Kevorkian” portion at some point in the ‘90s for obvious reasons). Perhaps more amazing than the scene lasting a solid 10 years is the perseverance of The Suicide Machines.
The band’s latest release “A Match and a Gasoline” serves as the perfect example of its undying commitment to a broad sound. Over the years, The Suicide Machines have sounded like everyone from Bad Religion and Rancid to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. At some point, these similarities morphed into the group’s core sound, which has attracted a loyal, if not modest following.
The disc doesn’t break new ground, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Free of all the pop-punk additives and zany-ska preservatives, A Match and a Gasoline relies on a no-nonsense and often in-your-face approach to the ska-punk blend. Like all genuine artists, The Suicide Machines don’t make apologies, even though they continue to pull a horse that’s as dead as can be to a mainstream crowd that has since moved on to safer skies.
So they aren’t as successful as their Detroit brethren Eminem, Kid Rock and the White Stripes. But they’ve busted their chops and earned a level of respect that many of today’s so-called artists throw away at the first sign of Tommy Mottola and L.A. Reid. And it doesn’t hurt that the group’s latest batch of songs makes a strong case for its continued existence.