Essential New Music: Alan Vega’s “IT”

As aggressively influential as the scorched-earth electro of Suicide was (that being vocalist/poet/painter Alan Vega’s duo with machine manipulation Martin Rev), it was Vega who had an ongoing, prolific dialogue with his audience, as IT—recorded with wife Liz Lamere from 2010 until his passing in 2016—was his 11th solo album, and perhaps his finest. Built lyrically and sonically from the lean inspiration of downtown NYC’s mean streets (a given; his usual), Vega added to the detritus around him without sentiment. “Life is no joke,” he forcefully croon-cackles on “DTM” (stands for “dead to me”) while the industrial scrawl, pucker and bounce of neo-industrial noise spins behind him. Add a ghostly chain’s clinking and Vega’s vocal tics (“whoa,” “yeaaah”) and you get “Vision” and its fire-and-brimstone breaks. Unlike on Suicide albums (and even his own), Vega’s forceful voice is boldly high in the mix, allowing the bubble-in-the-throat growl of “Dukes God Bar” and his shouts of “Hey lousy white racists/Stay away” to come through nice and clear. That’s good; Vega rarely got the opportunity to be heard beyond the underground, so clarity—in passing—was essential. And all the more piercing for it.

A.D. Amorosi