Love Is Suicide
911 Entertainment, 1997
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/31/1997
As 1997 winds down, I've found myself doing some sorting in the Pierce Archives (sorry, but the champagne toast is sold out), especially in the "incoming" department. Here are quite a few CDs that some of my label contacts have been kind enough to send me, but I just haven't gotten to yet. (If I haven't reviewed it yet, don't worry -- I still have albums I bought damn near four years ago I haven't touched yet.)
Browsing through these piles, I came across the debut album from Marshall Coleman, Love Is Suicide. Maybe it was the illustration of the cluster bomb or whatever the hell that thing is on the cover, maybe it was the intriguing song titles, whatever the reason, I threw it into the CD player -- and promptly discovered the album that will most likely round out my "Top Ten" list for 1997.
Coleman is a strong singer - at one moment, sounding like Jon Bon Jovi, another like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick -- and still another moment like his own unique voice. Powerful, poignant lyrics and fresh songwriting all raise this disc to a whole new level.
In his online bio, Coleman admitted that these songs were like a catharsis for him; they released a lot of pent-up anger, hostility and emotion. I don't know why, but it seems like those moments for a songwriter produce some of their best work. Take "Child Of Misery": "Daddy you're a dreamer, daddy you're a fool." Or maybe this line: "Momma, I was the best mistake / That you ever made." Whether this is autobiographical I don't know, but the protagonist of this song unleashes wave after wave of mixed emotions toward his parents. The coldness of his father and the warmth of his mother provide a yin-yang that our hero is obviously still fighting with.
An even more powerful picture into a world of despair is "Mother Cirrhosis," in which the singer prays for the disease (and possibly death) to relieve him of his alcoholism. (This song, by the way, is not based on Coleman himself, but on a friend of his, according to his on-line bio.) The despair of the singer is felt in the stark arrangement of the song and the softer, more low-keyed delivery of the vocal. Two words: Ka-pow.
You can hear a definite John Lennon influence in Coleman's work -- tell me you don't hear traces of "I Am The Walrus" on "Merry Go Round". But Coleman takes all of his influences and successfully shapes them into a voice and atmosphere all their own - one of the true signs of a talented artist.
Not all of the songs on Love Is Suicide are meant to be as thought-provoking and heart-string tugging. "Tuesday" is a pleasantly-crafted light pop number, as is "Weight Of The World." And I'm not sure where I heard it, but I know I've heard "Not Into You" occasionally on the radio -- great to hear it again. The only real weak moment is the album's closer, "True Color Of Blue" -- that, and the fact this album clocks in at under 40 minutes... more, dammit, more!!!
In one sense, Coleman's power scares me -- he is able to take the pain he and the people he loves have felt and channels it towards us, giving us the ability to feel just a little of what he has. Fortunately, he balances the dark moods with the lighter ones -- God help us if he ever makes a really dark album. The power of the songs, I think, would be too much to bear.
Being on a small, up-and-coming label, Coleman may not get the exposure he so richly deserves. But Love Is Suicide is most definitely an album worth searching out... and c'mon, this is the internet, for Jah's sake! It's not like you have to travel or make jillions of phone calls! Start the new year off right, and slap this one into the CD player.
By the way, Love Is Suicide is an enhanced-CD, though I have yet to explore the multimedia side to this album. If it's anything like the audio portion, it should be most excellent.