Suede * * * * *
Dog Man Star* * * *
Coming Up * * * *
Head Music * *
A New Morning *
In 1992, with the pop world in the grip of grunge, Suede were a beacon of glammed-up decadence. Led by chiselled- cheeked Brett Anderson, a posing, preening amalgam of Bowie, Morrissey and Scott Walker, they sashayed on to centre stage in a flurry of powder and perfume.
Suede hit hard and fast with a trio of tremendous singles ( The Drowners, Metal Mickey, Animal Nitrate), then dealt the coup de grace with their debut album, a record ripe with the promise of forbidden fruit and filled with songs of transgressive acts and confused teenage sexuality, including So Young, Sleeping Pillsand The Next Life. It won the Mercury Music Prize in 1993, and Suede were credited with kickstarting Britpop.
If Suede’s debut album was their Ziggy Stardust, a call- to-arms for space cadets and weirdos everywhere, the second, Dog Man Star, was their Diamond Dogs – a dark, paranoid vision of a dystopian yob nation. The writing and recording was wracked by growing tension between the band (Anderson in particular) and gifted guitarist Bernard Butler, who quit the band before the album was finished.
While Dog Man Starcontains some of Suede’s finest songs ( The Wild Ones, New Generation, The Asphalt World), the band had overreached, shooting for the moon but only clipping a few stars. It may be their magnum opus, but it’s too fragmented and flawed to be their masterpiece.
Replacing Butler with 17-year-old guitar prodigy Richard Oakes, and recruiting drummer Simon Gilbert’s cousin Neil Codling on keyboards, Suede began anew with Coming Up. Call it their Aladdin Sane, an album of unabashed pop sheen, a bright, brash collection diametrically opposed to the dark, oppressive atmosphere of its predecessor. Songs such as Trash, The Beautiful Ones, Filmstar and Saturday Nightelevated all that was shallow and screwed up to an irresistibly glam level. Coming Upbecame their biggest seller, spawning five Top 10 singles. Bassist Mat Osman called it “our album to do your hair to”.
The next, Head Music, found Suede falling apart again, as band members succumbed to exhaustion, illness or addiction. This time round, the band wanted to take their basic rock band sound into more dance-floor-friendly territory – it’s their Let’s Dance. Head Musicis filled with streamlined, beat-heavy songs ( Electricity, She’s in Fashion), but it’s ultimately hollow and soulless.
By the time Suede released their final album, A New Morning, in 2002, the youthful rush of Britpop had given way to the more grown-up sensibilities of Coldplay, Dovesand Elbow.They needed a Heroesor a Scary Monstersto stay in the game; instead they came up with Never Let Me Down.
Anderson admits that Suede foolishly relegated some of their best songs – My Insatiable One, To the Birds, K illing of a Flash Boy– to B-side status, but they’re all present and correct on bonus CDs that come with each remastered album.
Download tracks: So Young, The Wild Ones, The Beautiful Ones, She’s in Fashion, Beautiful Loser