Suicidal Tendencies exuded coolness in the late eighties. They had a cool name, a cool logo, and a cool look. Who could forget the ball cap with the flipped-up brim and the word “Suicidal” underneath? Or Mike Muir’s trademark blue bandanna? My favorite, though, is Rocky George’s classic “pill-box” Pittsburgh Pirates hat. Not many people could rock that hat and look cool — but Rocky did. (Eat your heart out Kent Tekulve!)
S.T. approached heavy metal from a totally different angle — making them unique and refreshing. They started as a hardcore punk band but morphed into a full-fledged metal band by the time of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today arrived in 1988. It was their first album after signing a deal with Epic records. S.T. were predominantly thrash but they still maintained a bit of their punk ‘tude. They also weren’t afraid to defy convention — whether it be by slowing things down, getting mellow, or using melody to bolster their songs. On of the most distinct attributes of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today is that every song has its own identity. No two songs sound alike. That’s a pretty rare occurrence in the thrash genre. But again, to pigeonhole Suicidal as simply a thrash band undermines their breadth.
Though vocalist Mike Muir possessed an unremarkable voice, he was still able to put a stamp on his tunes thanks to his provocative lyrics and formidable presence. S.T.’s secret weapon was guitarist Rocky George. His lead playing was surprisingly tasteful — especially for a band pegged with the “crossover” label.
My favorite track on How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today is the pulverizing opener Trip At The Brain. Other faves include Pledge Your Allegiance, Sorry?!, and How Will I Laugh Tomorrow. My score: B+