Cambridge's spray-painted teenage punk nihilists, The Virgin Suicides, have decided to call it a day, at least for the time being.
The band burst out onto the stages of Cambridge in 2001, and pretty soon were making a name for themselves across the city with their no-nonsense views on what they saw as the cosy small mindedness of the local scene. Pretty soon message boards were creaking and crashing under the weight of the local 'in crowd' threatening to beat them up or wreck their gigs, and pretty soon this threat was made real at an infamous gig at which the soundman and his friendly heavies seemed to turn the power off during their set! They were indeed 'the most hated band in Cambridge'.
But for every detractor, there was someone who understood, and the early demos (recorded when the band were aged 14-16) were welcomed with open arms by magazines like Organ, Drowned in Sound, Cambridge Evening News and Rock Sound. The artwork was in a style that went on to be a trademark, mixing anarchic cut'n'paste juxtapositions with quotations from the like of Blake, Plath and Malcolm McLaren. A single release followed soon; 'Elizabeth Royal' was VS's frantic two fingered contribution to R*E*P*E*A*T Record's glorious republican red vinyl 'Fuck The Jubilee' seven inch single.
This was followed by 2003's CD ep 'Plough Over the Bones Of The Dead' and a tour, which saw the band cement their place in the hearts of misfit kids in the dull suburbs of our soulless land. Their energy, passion, bile and incisive lyrics struck a chord with others left disenchanted with the way things are, and e-mails and letters came in from across the world. Supports with the likes of Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Miss Black America and The Dawn Parade followed, and it looked like the doubting scenesters were going to have to eat their words.
However, things are never that easy, and maturity brought with it all sorts of new problems and trials. With half the band moving away to university, it became increasingly hard to maintain the unity that had been so essential to cement the self-belief and gang mentality which had kept them kicking against a hostile world. Practices in the university holidays were full of self-doubt and internal questionings, and the occasional gigs were more chaotic and unstable than ever. In 2004 the band recorded some further demos, but while these continued to show lyrical dexterity and insight, they caused murmurs of dissent within the band and their fan base as to the new musical direction they were taking.
Steve Lamacq, however, had no such doubts when he played second track 'Dead At The Grange' on Radio One.
A few shambolic gigs followed, culminating in one more chaotic than usual at the Portland Arms in Cambridge which lead singer and guitarist Dickon walked out of mid set. Although he didn't know it at the time, he was also walking out of the band. They have not gigged since, and although they do not rule out reforming after the forced jollity of University, have decided to call it a day for now.
Dickon is already embarked on a solo project, tentatively entitled 'The Horse and his Boy', and has played a couple of solo gigs and recorded some demos, accompanied on some by VS guitarist Tom. These maybe soon available to hear on the Virgin Suicides website. The whereabouts of bassist John and drummer Adam are unknown.
As a group of young teenagers The Virgin Suicides achieved so much in their early days that anything else was bound to be a let down: 2 worldwide releases, a clutch of great reviews, Radio One play, interest from major labels, antagonising the indie glitterati of their home town, a tour, some of the best propaganda of any unsigned band ever ('flyposting is the new poetry'!), some uniquely articulate, honest and energetic songs and fans across the world. By killing the band young, they have left a beautiful corpse, which can no longer be inspected at www.thevirginsuicides.co.uk. However their back catalogue can be enjoyed at the R*E*P*E*A*T Bandcamp here and is also available from www.repeatfanzine.co.uk
But for now, as ever with The Virgin Suicides, it's time to "regress forwards".
Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T, Manager of The Virgin Suicides 2001-2005, Oct 2005
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