AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #209 : SUEDE

A GUEST POSTING by ADY HODGES

First, I’d like to thank everyone for their kind comments on my first ICA on Ash. They were nice enough to make me want to have another go, so here we are.

The other month, I was watching The Insatiable Ones, a new Suede documentary and I wondered if anyone had done a Suede ICA, as it’s something I thought I could have a go at. Imagine my surprise when I saw no one had, so I’m attempting it. I don’t claim to be a Suede expert, but I own the first 4 albums, the Sci-Fi Lullabies B Sides collection, the first comeback album, Bloodsports and the latest, The Blue Hour. I have also now heard the other 2 albums, although nothing from them has made this ICA (spoiler alert),

The Beautiful Ones – A Suede ICA

Side 1

Animal Nitrate (from Suede)

Possibly the most famous Suede song (although that could be Trash). Their first Top Ten hit (at a time when Indie bands didn’t hit the Top Ten) and a song that we forget now was so out of step with the times, all big bold glam rock guitars at the tail end of the grunge era. Somehow its blatant drug references escaped the BBC sensors, as it was a massive radio hit.

Everything Will Flow (from Head Music)

The recording of Head Music was a troubled time for the band, Brett Anderson was a drug addict by this time and keyboard player Neil Codling was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The band largely recorded tracks for the album individually. On top of this, they were also trying to experiment with a more electronic dance influenced direction. Despite this, a lot of the album holds up well, none more so than this track. Fun fact, this song got to number 28 on the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, Suede on the Dance chart, who’d have thought it?

The Big Time (from Sci-Fi Lullabies)

Originally the B Side to Animal Nitrate, later collected on the Sci-Fi Lullabies compilation. This is a beautiful ballad, simple guitar, strings, a mournful trumpet solo and poignant lyrics, detailing the tale of a relationship breaking down due to the fame of one of the parties. “Now he’s in the big time, And you’re in the way.”

It Starts And Ends With You (from Bloodsports)

Suede’s reunion has produced 3 albums to date, Bloodsports was the first in 2013. When they toured this album, they played 2 sets, first they played the complete album in order, then after a break they played their singles in chronological order (when I saw them in Southampton, they got up to The Beautiful Ones), which was a brave decision, but I believe the album is strong enough to get away with it. This to me is the stand-out track on the album, very old-school chart friendly Suede.

The 2 Of Us (from Dog Man Star)

Dog Man Star is now regularly held up as Suede’s crowning achievement. Initially I preferred Coming Up, as it is more immediate, but Dog Man Star bears up to repeated listening, as you appreciate more about it and different tracks make an impression. This is one of those tracks, in some ways it’s a typical Suede piano ballad, however, I love the way it builds and then fades, also the lyrics are very evocative.

Side 2

Beautiful Ones (from Coming Up)

The third album Coming Up was a contrast to Dog Man Star, more direct and poppy. It feels like an album of hit singles and five of them did go top 10. This to my mind is the best of the uptempo tracks, even if it is a bit reminiscent of New Generation from the previous album. It’s a typical rollicking Suede single with lyrics trashing mid-nineties celebrity culture.

Stay Together (Long Version) (from the single)

Their joint biggest hit (along with Trash) and the only standalone single they ever released. This was the first notice that Bernard Butler wanted to start producing epics and this longer version definitely feels like a production where the kitchen sink has been thrown at it, particularly in the four and a half minute outro. A clear signpost to what they would go on to produce on the Dog Man Star album.

Still Life (from Dog Man Star)

Another ballad from Dog Man Star. I prefer the ballads on this album (this, The 2 Of Us, The Wild Ones & Asphalt World in particular), as there are more layers to them. This track builds to an impressive climax, with contributions from the London Sinfonia orchestra. It was covered, surprisingly well, by of all people, Alisha’s Attic on the Childline album, a version worth seeking out.

Cold Hands (from The Blue Hour)

I toyed with sticking a number of tracks at this point. The piano version of My Insatiable One was considered, as was their cover of Shipbuilding, but there are too many ballads on this side of the ICA. We need something lively here and I thought about Metal Mickey, but I eventually settled on something less obvious. Cold Hands is a highlight from the latest album and is a short swaggering blast of energy, that fits nicely here.

Saturday Night (from Coming Up)

The closing track from Coming Up is a melancholic ballad, based around a straightforward guitar figure and some more poignant lyrics. I think the “Sha La La La” refrain as the song fades out is a great way to end this ICA.

ADY

BLACK COAL MORNINGS

I recently got round to finally reading Coal Black Mornings, the poignant and wonderfully written autobiography from the pen of Brett Anderson that was published back in March. I won’t be the least bit surprised if it appears in many ‘Best Of’ lists come the end of the year as the reviews and the public reaction has been almost universally positive.

It certainly was a surprising read in that I had the author down as someone who had something of an comfortable and cossetted upbringing, encouraged at all times by indulgent parents to pursue an artistic or creative career. My basis for such a supposition goes back to when he and the band burst on the scene as his unshakable confidence was, in my mind, typical of someone with such an upbringing and there was never a sense that he was desperate for success to get himself out of poverty or deprivation. And besides, he had been brought up in a town called Haywards Heath in the county of Sussex in the south of England, which just all sounds the sort of place where everybody is well-off and middle/upper class.

It turns out to be far from the case. His father wasn’t close to being in the professional classes or even a tradesman, drifting from one unskilled job to the next in an era when the expectation was the male head of the family would be the breadwinner while his wife was the bread-maker. It was blue-collar upbringing on a council estate where money wasn’t easy to come by, but it was also an unconventional and untypical upbringing in many ways as dad was an obsessive classical music fan to the extent that while on jury service he refused to swear on the bible and demanded that he do so on a biography of Franz Liszt; meanwhile, mum was prone to sunbathing naked in the back garden and reflecting with sadness on her own failure to follow through her graduation from art school.

It’s a beautifully written book, which really could only have been written now that Brett is of an age to understand, thanks to his own life experiences, what his parents were really like and how everything in his childhood, teenage and formative years moulded him into the singer/performer he would later become. It’s also a book with a lot of self-deprecating humour – the author is well aware of the persona he initially created to ensure his success and he is able nowadays to laugh at his sense of self-importance and pretentiousness of the past, while always, and quite rightly, justifying his behaviour.

It’s a book which ends when you least expect it, in that Suede are on the brink of fame and fortune and so there’s nothing much about the era of Britpop, albeit there are fleeting references occasionally on the basis on what would happened to someone later on in life. He doesn’t shirk away from his doomed relationship with Justine Frischmann but doesn’t use the book to settle any old scores or air grievances, which a sign of true class. It really is one of the best musical autobiographies that I’ve read in many a year.

The only previous time I’ve featured Suede on these pages was when I gave the opportunity to again listen to the early singles and their accompanying and often majestic b-sides. I thought it would make sense today to take it to the next phase of the band, with the three singles lifted from the album Dog Man Star, released in 1994 to mixed reviews, mainly as it sounded nothing like the debut album and many felt that going forward without Bernard Butler they were doomed. I’ll admit to being less than enamoured with the album at the time as it just didn’t have the hooks of the debut while many of the other tracks on the singles didn’t come close to the brilliance of the early b-sides; but it is an album that, like many a fine Scotch, has aged superbly and it is one that I am willing to now concede does deserve to be given the highest respect and praise; so too with most of the b-sides…

mp3 : Suede – We Are the Pigs
mp3 : Suede – Killing of a Flash Boy
mp3 : Suede – Whipsnade

mp3 : Suede – The Wild Ones
mp3 : Suede – Modern Boys
mp3 : Suede – This World Needs a Father
mp3 : Suede – Eno’s Introducing The Band
mp3 : Suede – Asda Town

(warning….the ambient track mixed by Brian Eno is more than 15 minutes long….and is hard going!!)

mp3 : Suede – New Generation
mp3 : Suede – Together
mp3 : Suede – Bentswood Boys

JC

 

LOOKING BACK ON IT, THEY SPOILED US VERY EARLY ON

suede

I received a rather lovely e-mail the other day from Berlin courtesy of Thomas in which he queried whether I had a disdain for Suede given that they hadn’t featured on the blog.  I was surprised this was the case – the band had certainly been on the old blog a few times  – but indeed Thomas was right.  In what is now fast approaching 1,000 posts, I haven’t mentioned Suede except in passing.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to latch on to them so early that I saw them in 1992 when they played what is now regarded as a legendary gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow, but I was in the audience on 1 April 1993 when they returned to the city on the tour promoting the self-titled debut LP that had been released just a few days earlier.  The gig was at the now demolished Plaza Ballroom on the south side of the city and it remains in my memory as one of the most dynamic and energetic performances that I’ve ever witnessed, in the main down to the astonishing guitar playing from Bernard Butler although to be fair Brett Anderson was a terrific frontman.

There were three singles issued in advance of the album.  I bought all of them on CD and what was particularly impressive was the quality of the b-sides.  In all, you’d find nine tracks and there’s a case to be made that almost all of them would all find their way onto an ICA…well they would if I was penning it.

The down side was that having made so many great tracks available so early on that some of the tracks on the debut LP initially sort of felt like a bit of a letdown in comparison.  A few weeks later a fourth single then lifted from the album (again with two new b-sides – no remixes or live versions for these boys) and then on Valentine’s Day 1994 the band issued their fifth single, a brand new song with two more new songs.

It was an astonishing run of 45s that even now, more than 20 years on are well worth a listen.  It’s not that I fell out of love with Suede after this, but they had set such a high standard that was going to be impossible to maintain that I became a bit detached. I still bought the singles and albums but never went out of  my way to see them in the live setting.  Besides, and although the new line-up was still enthralling, it wasn’t the same without Bernard.

mp3 : Suede – The Drowners
mp3 : Suede – To The Birds
mp3 : Suede – My Insatiable One

mp3 : Suede – Metal Mickey
mp3 : Suede – Where The Pigs Don’t Fly
mp3 : Suede – He’s Dead

mp3 : Suede – Animal Nitrate
mp3 : Suede – Painted People
mp3 : Suede – The Big Time

mp3 : Suede – So Young
mp3 : Suede – Dolly
mp3 : Suede – High Rising

mp3 : Suede – Stay Together (edit)
mp3 : Suede – The Living Dead
mp3 : Suede – My Dark Star
mp3 : Suede – Stay Together (full version)

Enjoy.