Not punk enough for the punk rockers and not metal enough for the metal heads, the legend of Los Angeles' SUICIDIAL TENDENCIES (ST) is one of which you are likely aware, unless you've spent substantial portions of your life living in a cave. Whether considered hardcore punk or crossover (they were both), the band's first release, 1983's self-titled album became a skate punk bible and ultimately a hugely successful and all-time classic release. With a track list that defines "all killer, no filler" and lyrics that were anti-establishment, outrageous, and often darkly comedic, the album spawned the mega-classic "Institutionalized", as well as "I Saw Your Mommy", "Suicidal Failure", "Subliminal", and "I Shot Reagan". Even with a sophomore album in 1987's "Join the Army" that didn't quite measure up to the uniqueness and creativity of the debut, though it is a fine crossover release in its own right, ST ended up an immoderately influential band that played by its own set of rules, regardless of what some might think of the metallic leanings of later albums.
Nothing signifies the timeless qualities of ST and the seminal nature of those first albums than a 2005 performance at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles (the venue's last before it became a Korean Church), filmed and now released as ST's first ever DVD. The 75-minute disc, which includes a brief interview segment, splendidly captures the raw, energetic, and insanely entertaining essence of ST in its natural environment, surrounded (literally) by 4,000 adoring fans. The bulk of the set list is culled from those two albums (the majority from the debut) and the performances of those songs are filled with a level of excitement and relevance that rivals the original recordings. The difference is that several of the cuts contain a measure of funked up groove and musicality credited to a group of musicians that have become tighter and more accomplished over the years, not the least of which is due to white hot soloing that gives songs like "Suicidal Failure" an extra shot of energy. Though not included on the track list, the version of "Send me your Money" from 1990's "Lights…Camera…Revolution!" is injected with a blues-based rhythmic swing that is missing from the original studio recording. The camera work avoids professional/glossy overkill in favor of a style better suited to the band's presentation; doing it any other way would have robbed the film of ST's virility. More bonus footage would have been nice, but that's hardly a complaint.
And then there is the Reverend of the Church of Suicidal himself, vocalist Mike Muir, who whips the crowd into a frenzy and uplifts the spirit with his seamless flow of street wisdom, succinct storytelling, and pulpit sermonizing. It is almost as though it is 1985 again, which says more about the vibrancy of "Live at the Olympic Auditorium" than any set descriptions, sound quality (it's good too, by the way) assessments, or packaging analysis. As Muir shouts toward the end of the set, "if you ain't suicidal, you ain't shit." He's right, you know.