DEVO fans take note: Chuck Statler, the director of the spuds’ “The Truth about De-Evolution,” “Come Back Jonee” and “Satisfaction” videos, also made this 1977 video for the Suicide Commandos’ “Burn It Down.” It’s a simple song with a memorable message, namely that you should set fire to anything you don’t like.
The video, Statler’s second, captured the band playing “Burn It Down” on the street as the condemned house where they lived and practiced burned to the ground behind them. (Statler hired drunks from a Twin Cities unemployment line to bowl in DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee” video, and he seems to have used a similar casting technique for the beginning and end of this one, in which local folks wearing fire helmets take turns slurring the band’s name.)
The Suicide Commandos “Burn It Down”
Now legendary, the Suicide Commandos were a Minneapolis power trio comprising singer and guitarist Chris Osgood (also Bob Mould’s guitar teacher), bassist Steve Almaas and drummer Dave Ahl. Their debut album, The Suicide Commandos Make a Record, was the second and final release on Mercury Records’ Midwestern punk imprint, Blank Records, which perished because its roster was too good for this wicked world. Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance had been the first Blank release, and the Bizarros’ debut LP was to have been the third.
“Chuck Statler made the video of our house which got condemned because it had no heat or running water,” Osgood told Minnesota Public Radio in 2012. Band members would walk down the street from “Utopia House” to a tennis club to shower. “It was October of ‘77 when Utopia House got burned down, and we knew that it was going to be demolished, or going to be burned [and used as] fire department practice. So I wrote ‘Burn It Down’ so that that could happen, and we had the idea of playing in front of our house as it burned down, ‘cause Chuck Statler had made a little musical movie with a band called DEVO from Akron, and there you go.”
The Suicide Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert, the Suicide Commandos’ equivalent of The Last Waltz, was the first LP released by Minneapolis’s Twin/Tone label. Improbably, their music was actually used for a Target commercial in 2004.
Hüsker Dü fans take note: here’s one of the Commandos’ best songs, “Complicated Fun,” from the Twin/Tone compilation Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III. Hear anything familiar?
The Suicide Commandos “Complicated Fun”