Success or Suicide
In the beginning, there were two: brothers Jeff and Chris Cannon. These Michiganders, transplanted to the Land of Enchantment otherwise known as New Mexico, started a band–a boisterous beast named Vertigo Venus. With their first release in 2004, they commanded (like the bossiest of stage mothers) that we listeners Sing Pretty! Then in 2007 with their second album, new band members came on board and things got a little ominous, as we were told to Run for Your Lives.
Now in 2010, Vertigo Venus' latest five-member incarnation comes at us, teeth bared, as their new album fiercely proclaims Success Or Suicide (also known by the abbreviation S.O.S.). In addition to the Brothers Cannon, the band roster also includes bassist Ken Cornell (also the mastermind behind experimental noise outfit Alchemical Burn); drummer and noted solo electronic artist Brian Botkiller; and lead synth/keyboard player Jessica Crockett.
It's appropriate to refer to this most recent Vertigo Venus album–which features four re-releases, two new original tracks and one cover–by either its full title or the abbreviation; both get the point across. The full title conveys the group's absolute determination to give this rock band thing everything they've got, while S.O.S., better known as the Morse code distress signal, shows a band anxious to be seen, heard, and ultimately rescued by discerning listeners from the miasma of today's musical landscape.
Vertigo Venus is certainly gifted at getting attention, most notably during a 2009 mini-tour of California, and as opening acts performing with such groups as Mindless Self Indulgence and The Birthday Massacre. The accolades have started coming in, too. S.O.S. opening track “Spy Vs. Spy” won a production award at the 2010 New Mexico Music Awards.
As a band, Vertigo Venus defines itself both by who they are (defiant metal-infused synthpunk monsters) and who they hate (phonies, corporate America, and brooding self-indulgent whiners of the goth/emo persuasion). Lead singer/synth player Jeff Cannon cheerfully spits antagonistic vitriol on every song. Highlights include “Monday Mourning” (with the ranting chorus “Shut up and die/ Everybody hates you”) and “Boob Tube” (which smacks apathetic distractable hipsters in the face and reminds us that “you can't say shit without big tits”).
Their most noteworthy song, however, would have to be “Punk Rock Cheerleader,” originally released on Sing Pretty! Described in a press release as a “sing-along-like-you-mean-it” anthem, this scathing indictment of phony mall-bought rebellion is the song for which they are best known. Auto-Tune and vocoder abound in the emo-mocking bridge before transitioning into a rallying cry complete with claps and stomps. There is a certain glorious irony in shining an accusatory spotlight on poseurs with rousing fist-pumping anthems.
Not everybody's going to like Vertigo Venus. They're loud. They're angry. They're bratty. That's okay, though. Vertigo Venus doesn't need–or want–mass approval. Which, in my mind, is exactly what makes them so likable and so deserving of fame.