The Popstream: The Suicide Commandos, "Burn It Down"

Categories: The Popstream
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I gotta admit, it's been a shitty time to be a Minnesotan. We still haven't figured out the whole Coleman/Franken mess, and if that wasn't enough political embarrassment, we've got Michele Bachmann trying to foment some sort of dimbulb insurrectionary movement because the President wants to spend money on something besides Bibles and border-fence razor wire. Weather-wise, we're used to it being a gruesome ordeal, but we endured a winter with several consecutive days of 20-below weather only to see spring arrive under the kind of overcast cloud cover that'd have Seattleites feeling sorry for us. Sports? The Wolves are monstrously bad, the Vikings are their usual underachieving selves, the Wild are just on the edge of being mediocre and the Twins, well, they could be pretty good but who the hell knows when Mauer's coming back. Unemployment's at its highest since the last time Mary Tyler Moore had a sitcom, the Red River Valley's getting flooded, and some snack-food manufacturer thinks we're a bunch of baby-assed lightweights. Still, you know what? That's all depressing as hell, but you can't take away the Suicide Commandos from us.

If you're a local, you probably know about the Commandos already, but if you're not (or you don't), here's the rundown: back in the late '70s, when just about every major metropolitan area was cultivating its own punk band, Chris Osgood, Steve Almaas and Dave Ahl represented the Twin Cities. They were more contemporaries of the Ramones than direct followers, having formed back in 1974, and it's likely that the brevity of their career (they broke up in '79) and the relative scarcity of their album pressings were the only things that kept them from having the kind of national cult following that the Replacements found a few years later. If they're famous for one particular moment of music history -- and around here, they're famous for more than that -- it could very well be their 1978 clip for their song "Burn It Down," which is one of my favorite examples of right-place/right-time opportunism in the service of a cool-as-hell video.

Back in '77, the notorious Utopia House -- a party/crash house where the Commandos rehearsed -- was condemned, and in an act of inspired weirdness the Minnetonka Fire Department decided that the best way to deal with the domicile was to torch it to the ground. Thus inspired, the Commandos wrote the blistering, Sabre Dance-quoting "Burn It Down" and decided to film the whole pyromaniacal act for posterity, complete with a whimsical intro filled with muttering firefighters and their talking dalmatian. This is quite possibly my favorite non-Prince Minnesota single of the '70s, and Osgood gets extra-special bonus points here for being punk rock while still rocking a beard.



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