Posts Tagged ‘Suede’
Down In The River – Artmagic
Artmagic is Richard Oakes (Suede) & Sean McGhee (Robyn, Britney, Imogen Heap). Their debut album “Become The One You Love” is out now and they have just released the video for the second single “Down In The River” which is due out on the 21st October.
To find out more about the band you can visit their Facebook page HERE.
With the exit of Bernard Butler the band replaced him with not one but two new members. Keyboardist Neil Codling and 17 year old guitarist and Suede fan Richard Oakes took the fractured band into a new era, both commercially and artistically.
By 1996 and the release of the third Suede album ‘Coming Up’, Britpop had taken hold of the nation and Suede were once more thrown back into the movement they despised. Whilst the album is certainly more upbeat and ‘poppy’ in sound, the lyrical content still takes a swipe at the 90s culture they found themselves in.
The dark, claustrophobic nature of ‘Dog Man Star’ is swept aside for ‘Coming Up’ and the disjointed, separate writing process of the second album gave way to a more collaborative union. Whilst ‘Coming Up’ is undoubtedly a simpler, brighter album, it is no poorer for it, in the Suede cannon, ‘Dog Man Star’ and ‘Coming Up’ forms the Ying and Yang.
In stark contrast to the previous albums’ opener, the bright and breezy ‘Trash’ gets ‘Coming Up’ going, the characters are still the outsiders but as Anderson points out in the new notes, they ‘have a smile on their face’. To be honest, that is the most simplistic way of describing the entire album. Gone is the edgy paranoia of the past, ‘Coming Up’ is crammed full of soaring choruses, shiny beats and Richard Oakes’ bright riffs.
In many ways mirroring Bowie once more, ‘Dog Man Star’ representing the 70s drug addled glam alien and ‘Coming Up’ being the preening 80s pop idol. The singles were all radio staples, ‘Filmstar’ and ‘Lazy’ remain irresistibly catchy along with the bounce of ‘Beautiful Ones‘ and the lilting ‘Saturday Night’.
As opposed to the rough demos from the previous albums, these demos already show the songs were written pretty close to how they ended up on the album. Switched from 33 1/3 to 45 in some cases and given a sugary coating but the initial blueprint laid out in Oakes’ bedsit where he wrote with Anderson shows the direction was clear from the start.
Whilst the quality of the B-side gradually starts to wane by the end of the ‘Coming Up’ sessions, there are still plenty of treats on offer. Held over from the ‘Dog Man Star’ collection, ‘ASDA Town’, ‘Together’ and ‘Bentswood Boys’ are prime Suede and showcase the blossoming musical partnership of Anderson and Oakes.
‘Europe Is Our Playground’ is atmospheric and brooding and ‘Another No One’ is gloriously bleak and contains the wonderfully resentful line ‘You’ll have to find another no one to take the shit like I have’. ‘Sound Of The Streets’ has the classic feel of vintage Suede, glistening melodies about damaged people and it bridges the gap between the rawness of ‘Dog Man Star’ and the sparkle of ‘Coming Up’.
This is the last truly great album Suede made, whilst many will argue it is not as good as ‘Suede’ or ‘Dog Man Star’ I will stick my neck out and disagree. It is hard to judge the more lightweight pop of ‘Coming Up’ in the same light as the sexually charged, drugged up splendour of the first two sets but as a modern day ‘pop’ record it is saccharine charged with a slightly bitter centre. Just the way I like it.
Find out more about the Suede reissues HERE.
The sophomore effort from Suede is their most notorious album, signalling the beginning of the end and at times pushing the pomp and pretention to the very limits of pop. Highlighting just how fractious the relationship between Anderson and Butler was at this time, despite living only streets apart, Butler would write the music and post tapes to Anderson to add the lyrics.
With the death of Butler’s father contributing to the cancellation of a US tour and Brett Anderson’s narcotic intake increasing, this found the partnership in two very different places. Long before the ‘Dog Man Star’ sessions had been completed Bernard Butler left the band.
Yet, despite this, ‘Dog Man Star’ remains a beautiful, paranoid, claustrophobic but timeless record, containing some of the boldest and most extraordinary tracks the band ever recorded and seeing them turn their back on the ‘Britpop’ movement they had (inadvertently) helped pioneer.
There seems to be an almost pugilistic quality to some of the tracks, Butler writing the most outrageous guitar parts he can only for Anderson to lay his cinematic, at times nihilistic lyrics across them. The result is a combination of Bowie’s androgyny and The Smith’s Avant-garde song-writing.
Whatever the backdrop to the sessions may have entailed and whether it was a help or hindrance, the unique dynamic of the band at this time created arguably one of the finest indie albums of the 90s. Whilst their respectable but not stellar chart positions did not live up to the success of the previous releases, the three singles lifted from the album still rank among the best Suede songs. ‘We Are The Pigs’ with its post-apocalyptic world view and haunting ‘We will watch them burn’ fade out still bristles with dark intent and ‘New Generation’ is a glorious glam romp.
It is however ‘The Wild Ones’ that still takes your breath away, Brett Anderson cites this as the single best Suede moment and you would have to try hard to argue against him. There is a sense of The Smiths about the track, but the usual tongue-in-cheek irony Morrissey wrings from his lyrics is instead replaced with genuine beauty in the mundane through Anderson’s incredible voice.
The whole album is filled with ambitious pieces, the deliberately strange opener of ‘Introducing The Band’ is like nothing that came before it (or after) and the epic 9min ‘The Asphalt World’ are more adventurous than most bands would consider for only their second album.
The entire album still exudes a confidence that, when you know the back story, seems extraordinary. By rights this album should never have been completed but somehow the troublesome gestation gave birth to a masterpiece.
As with the rest of the reissue series, there is a generous helping of rarities spread across the 3 discs, including the non-album single ‘Stay Together’. Selections of the B-sides are accounted for with ‘My Dark Star’ and ‘Killing Of A Flash Boy’ demonstrating the lost art of the flip-side, equal to the majority of the album proper. The full unedited versions of both ‘The Wild Ones’ and ‘The Asphalt World’ are also included.
Previously unreleased track ‘We Believe In Showbiz’ begins like an amped up, schizophrenic version of Blur’s ‘Too The End’ and hints at the more ‘pop’ direction the band would take on their next record.
At just £9.99 for the set it seems a bit churlish to complain about the extras, the DVD boasts plenty of live material as well as a few dislocated interview pieces with the Anderson and Butler of 2011. Lovingly compiled and spanning the demo process through the studio album to visuals as well, seriously, what more can you want?
More Suede info can be found HERE.
‘Indie’ may have started in the 80s but it was the 90s that still remain the defining decade for a genre we now take for granted. The 80s ‘Indie’ was the true definition, referring to Independent Labels and bands ‘independent’ of the major labels but as the decade progressed ‘indie’ started to become associated with guitar bands and by the 90s ‘indie’ had become a style.
Exploding the genre into the mainstream, ‘Britpop’ catapulted the guitar band back to the forefront of the British music scene for a few short years in the mid-90s, but as quickly as the euphoria had started, Britpop became an albatross around the necks of many bands. If you played guitar during this time then it was likely you would be caught in the tornado of the times regardless of your actual affiliation to the cause. Whilst they were undoubtedly great times, for every big hitter like Blur or Oasis there were the bands that just should have been hit like Soda or Bennet or worse still, Northern Uproar.
And so we get to the point, Suede were there before Britpop, engulfed in the furore during the height of the ‘movement’ and in my opinion, often overlooked as one of the finest ‘indie’ bands of the time. Now, with the entire Suede back catalogue being reissued with bonus tracks, videos and more, this is the perfect time to revisit a seminal band. For the first couple of albums at least.
The road to the first album was a rocky one, early incarnations of the band included Elastica’s Justine Frischmann (a demo is featured on this collection) and briefly, after placing an ad for a drummer ‘into The Smiths’ they got Mike Joyce, who was ‘in The Smiths’. By the time they signed for Nude and the debut album came out the classic 4 piece of Matt Osman (bass), Simon Gilbert (drums) and the formidable writing partnership of Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson was solidly in place.
Comprising of 2CDs and 1DVD, overseen by Brett Anderson himself, really does place Suede back at the top of the indie hierarchy. The slew of singles still impresses today, from debut ‘The Drowners’ to the timeless ‘Animal Nitrate’ the sexual ambiguity and the glam rock undertones always made Suede a slightly unique proposition and time has not diminished their appeal.
But the real draw of this collection is the plethora of rare and previously unreleased tracks and a generous helping of DVD footage. The 1997 ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’ set included many of the B-sides featured here but unless you were a particularly avid collector of the original singles, there are still some you may have missed.
‘Dolly’ for example was absent from the Sci-Fi album, taken from the ‘So Young’ single (CD & 12” only in case anyone is taking note) it is a fun two and a half minute romp, again showing there was a lot more to the band than just the 11 album tracks. ‘My Insatiable One’ is arguably as good as any A-side, treated to both the original version and a stunning piano/vocal cut, this remains one of the many highlights of the reissue.
Throw in a rare chance to hear an early (rough) demo featuring the aforementioned Justine Frischman (Just A Girl) and an earnest cover of The Pretenders’ ‘Brass In Pocket’ and you have a comprehensive overview of a band full of youthful vigour and more than a little arrogance.
The DVD not only collects together the videos for the first four singles plus the US version of ‘The Drowners’ but also features two live shows from 1993 along with a 2011 interview with Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. This really is a benchmark on how to present a repackaged release, not a hastily cobbled together travesty that some record companies shove out, half the time without the input of those involved.
There is no doubt though that at the top of their game, the combination of Anderson and Butler was equal to, if not greater than, any writing partnership the 90s had to offer. This is one of the rare times where a reissued, remastered, re-release is not a simple cash in, it offers something to the die hard and curious newcomer alike and whilst not a perfect album, it is an essential purchase.
Find out more about the full Suede remaster series HERE.