VVV "Resurrection River"
Well I did do something of a crazy move and that was to purchase the second and final album on CD from the "two-shot" collaboration between the two guys who were Panasonic (Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen) and Suicide vocalist Alan Vega (RIP). I call it a crazy shot because the disc has been discontinued since 2006 and people who are selling it online are doing so at ridiculous prices. The last time ebay had a seller getting rid of his used copy was at $50 in USD. On Amazon, the prices range between $50 and $75. The only copy being sold on Discogs now is at $58 not including shipping. This is ridiculous considering it is but an album on CD. But why so expensive? It is perhaps due to the limited run of the album to begin with (another side effect of streaming culture: rendering the manufacturing of physical formats expensive and limited, quickly becoming obsolete) but also to the unfortunate death of Alan Vega in 2016. As you can imagine, pretty much every thing with the Alan Vega name must be going up in price since last year.
First and foremost, an explanation. In the mid-90s as the duo of Mika and Ilpo as the band Panasonic were starting their rise to what would become infamy in the underground circles, they recorded a couple of songs with Alan Vega and subsequently released an album called "Endless". It was not credited to Panasonic and Alan Vega but rather as a Vega-Vaision-Vaisanen release, or VVV for short. Although it did gather some type of "success" back then, a supplier sold me a copy of the CD for about $15 and I never really got into it all that much. I was up to that point completely unaware of Alan Vega in any shape or form and was not impressed with the "Endless" album: it just felt like second-rate Panasonic material (which would probably would have worked nonetheless on its own) with a poor man's gothic-flavored Elvis impersonator slapped on top to act as "poor excuse for" lead vocals. No matter how much I tried and how often I would listen to the album, it felt more like Vega snoozed his vocals over the Panasonic song rejects which never made the cut.
Then years later something happened. I heard they recorded a second album, but as you can imagine I was not very keen on even attempting to listen to it. But somewhere in between those 15-20 years or so I either succumbed and listened to the "Resurrection River" album on a streaming website, or for some reason listened to an Alan Vega interview. Whichever happened first, it simply made me more curious about the album "Resurrection River" and Mr Vega himself. It was then that I started to engulf myself in the myth of the man and also try to get into his first musical venture, a long-ongoing band with instrumentalist Martin Rev, known as Suicide. Most people knew Alan Vega due to Suicide, and as his presence at "the village" of NY back in the 70s when the art scene was in full bloom and lofts and galleries opened their doors to the then-emerging street and punk culture. Very briefly (at least I'll try), Suicide started around 1971, coining themselves the first "punk mass music" live act consisting of Martin Rev on a busted old broken Farsifa organ with one of the earliest "Bosanova" beat boxes, and Alan Vega on vocals and motorcycle chain. Their debut album "Suicide" which was released in end of 1977 was coined one of the worst records ever by Rolling Stone magazine, and the band themselves saw most of their live appearances meeting with violence from the crowd and often venues erupting into full-blown riots. To give you an idea, the guys weren't just avoiding beer bottles thrown at them on stage but one time Martin left his synth running when the guys walked off stage and the crowd kept throwing stuff at it, as to try to make it "shut up". Anyway since their second album in 1980, both have recorded solo and other projects as well while returning every so couple of years to record new records and do live tours. By this time the public was slowly growing into their live spectacles and sound, although they never really caught on (save for becoming a cult reference) until the post Y2K youth movement of glorifying everything remotely nostalgic. By then, the late 60-something year old Vega was more of a painter than a "rock star", and couldn't understand how their 1977 debut album which was more often than not spat upon and rolled over by cars than appreciated, was now hailed as the "newest, freshest" sound. Vega even said that if they (Martin Rev and himself) were replaced by 20-year old kids on stage when Suicide toured with Iggy and the Stooges and would play their entire first album as live set, it would have been perhaps the latest thing in music movements. Heck, a hip hop pop star (I think it's Santigold but I am not up to the commercial currents) even sampled a Suicide riff for one of their hit singles. Anyway, moving along here....
My growing appreciation for Vega as an artist (both the persona he adorned in Suicide as well as his painting) led me to listen to "Resurrection River" and made me realize that this was actually a far superior record than the VVV debut "Endless". Even if it would seem that most "fans" of "Endless" loved to more bombastic and almost 4 on the floor type of music of the first album, the second album "Resurrection River" seemed to be "less" in the eyes of the public. However I found it both musically more stimulating even if it is a more subtle sound, and found Vega's vocal performance much more alive and dare I even mention passionate than on "Endless". Yes, "Resurrection River" is more toned-down; it is a little bit more experimental than the first one, and does play much more to nuances and subtlety than "Endless", and it seems to suit Alan Vega just fine, as he feels pretty much at the top of his game on this one. Also, perhaps more importantly so, "Resurrection River" does feel more of a group effort rather than two separate entities just clashing as a car crash in the studio. The result is an album which combines the usual cold and calculated "chaos-control" of the Panasonic sound, along with a more vibrant and expressive Vega giving a great performance on all the short pieces. It is one of the rare cases where the sequel surpasses the original, at least in my opinion. Of course not many people are crazy like I am and would spend $55 on an audio CD (the seller I contacted sold his MINT NEW although promotional CD for $25, but that was in USD and did not include shipping), but for you younger kids into music that isn't a wholesale target walmart mcdonalds catered industry product for easy immediate consumption, "Resurrection River" is available for $10 on itunes, or $0.99 each track/piece/song. However I do find it works better as a whole rather than in parts. But it's up to you.
Mika and Ilpo have broken up Panasonic years ago, both still very active in various other projects as well as solo endeavors. Alan Vega died in his sleep in mid-2016, but his being is still very much alive in not only the legacy he has left behind but also as an inspiration to countless people, including yours truly, for simply doing things for the sake of doing them; creating art strictly to create... And there's always a bonus for shaking up the expectations and the establishment in the process!