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Thursday, January 18th, 2007

We Are The Pigs

When I listed Suede’s Dog Man Star in the “now playing” section of a post recently, I got an IM from Duarte to the effect of, “Suede? Really?” Is it really a surprise that I like Suede and have, of late, been rediscovering just how bloody good their early stuff is? Sure, they were like the polar opposites of the naval-gazing shoegazey bands that generally define my favourite early-90s Brit bands, but that’s precisely why I’m such a fan.

While the singles off the first record are pretty much untouchable, as far as albums go I love the dark, romantic grandiosity of Dog Man Star so much more. It’s hard to believe that even though the sonic architect, guitarist Bernard Butler, walked out of the sessions halfway through due to friction with producer Ed Buller – it just sounds so complete and fully realized. The record is a doorway into a glamorously dystopian world that took “live fast, die you, leave a beautiful corpse” fully to heart. Just consider the singles – the anthemic defiance of “We Are The Pigs”, the desperately gorgeous “The Wild Ones”, the undistilled rapture of “New Generation”. The whole record drips with style, passion and fatalism the likes of which I haven’t heard in, oh, twelve years or so.

Though you’d think that all the strings, the horns, the layers upon layers upon layers of guitars and Brett Anderson’s voice, swooping and soaring overtop it all – would be a recipe for overblown excess but it’s not because that’s precisely the point. I love how unabashedly epic and melodramatic it all is – it’s simply tragic that by the time it was released, the UK had fallen for the decidedly more laddish and uninspiring sounds of Oasis and it was they that would define the Britpop era. Though the two albums that Anderson and Butler did produce together still stand as towering achievements even today, the next three records released by Suede don’t nearly measure up. It must be admitted that Butler’s replacement, Fat Richard (Oakes) was good for one record, the lighter and glammier Coming Up, but the follow-ups Head Music and A New Morning were sadly drab and uninspired. I was relieved when they called it quits at the end of 2003 if for no other reason than there would be no further dilution of the band’s legacy.

And, as it turns out, leaving Suede behind allowed Anderson to look to the future by reconciling with a friend from the past. I’ll get into both Butler and Anderson’s post-Suede projects in a later post (maybe even tomorrow). Unlike those of most legendary UK singer/guitarist duos that dissolve (Morrissey/Marr, Ashcroft/McCabe, Brown/Squire), they’ve actually done stuff that’s worthy of note after the fact. Well, Butler has. Anyway, their story’s not done.

But I leave you with this – vids from all the Dog Man Star singles (some featuring a Bernard stand-in!) and an MP3 of one of my favourite Suede songs (and one of Anderson’s least favourite), “Stay Together”. Release between the first two albums, it was the first sign that the band was looking to expand beyond the compact pop single. The full version (which I’ve posted) is eight and a half minutes of sheer romantic and dramatic musical bliss. Because of the band’s inexplicable disdain for the song, it didn’t appear on the otherwise excellent Sci-Fi Lullabies b-sides comp and remained pretty much out of circulation until the release of the Singles compilation in 2003 and even there it’s the radio edit, not the full version. Truly a shame.

MP3: Suede – “Stay Together”
Video: Suede – “Stay Together” (YouTube)
Video: Suede – “We Are The Pigs” (YouTube)
Video: Suede – “The Wild Ones” (YouTube)
Video: Suede – “New Generation” (YouTube)

Harp asks Johnny Marr how the hell one of the most influential guitarists of the last 25 years ended up as the new axeman in Modest Mouse – apparently Isaac Brock called up and asked. Damn, I wish I’d thought of that. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, the new record and first featuring Marr, is out in March.

Austinist has compiled a list of over 80 bands confirmed to appear at SxSW this year. Have to say – going over the list, I don’t see anyone that I’m overly excited about. I mean, there’s a lot of great acts but no one that I haven’t seen or won’t have the opportunity to see without hoofing it to Austin. That said, I know there’s at least a few bands who’ll be in attendance that aren’t on their list so there’s still plenty of time for some must-sees to go public.

And speaking of Austin and festivals, one of that city’s favourite sons – Daniel Johnston will be in Toronto on May 6 for the Over The Top Festival (via BrooklynVegan). I’ve seen him live before and he’s interesting. Very interesting.

More shows – Iceland’s Amiina are at the Music Gallery on March 27, tickets $15 while Electrelane and The Blow are at Lee’s May 18, tickets $13. I likes The Blow but am not likely to be around to attend. Alas.

By : Frank Yang at 8:24 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Mick says:

    Thanks for the post. The album by The Tears has some incredible music on it too.

  2. Sasha says:

    Not going to M Ward Frank? I’m shocked…

    Any idea what happened over at RBALLY and what the Cat Power fiasco was that has convinced him to shut it down? Too bad…he had some great stuff

  3. Frank says:

    yeah, I’m trying to not see so many of the same bands I always do. Sure it’ll be a great show, though.

    As for rbally, I don’t think there’s much to say – Matador asked him to take down a Cat Power show he was sharing and I think Jennings has been on the fence about keeping the site up for a while. He’s been back before, he’ll surely be back again later.

  4. torr says:

    frank, so glad to see you do a Suede post. DMS is indeed one of the best albums of the 90s. It’s too most of The Tears album is so weak!

  5. Frank says:

    oh, I don’t think The Tears is weak at all. Not as good as Suede, no, but I found it far better than I expected.

    but i’ll talk about that in the post-Suede post.

  6. Jack says:

    I really dug the Suede stand alone single that came out at the beginning of 1994, "Stay Together". I highly recommend John Harris’ book "The Last Party – Britpop and Blair" to anyone who wants to know more about Suede, and their rifts with Blur, Elastica, and pretty much everyone else in the UK scene at the time. Noel Gallagher wrote "Live Forever" after hearing Suede, as an optimistic riposte. Which I think is cool…

  7. david Natoli says:

    wow….chromewaves finally shows some heart. i was about to chuck it in and delete from my bookmarks after a steady 2-3 years of reading. too much bland "indie" pop, yuppie rock,blogger rock,etc…..just too much garbage that no one will care about in 2 years…

    but..Suede? unbelievably great band..criminally underrated (for now)…..DMS is possibly the greatest record of the last 15 years. and sadly very few people realize it.

    but some disagreements….your comments about the last two records are lazy and cliched. Head Musis especially (while having a couple of duds) is a shambolic, fascinating stab at a new sound….love that record..brett was nearly dead on crack and heroin at the time and you can really tell…and it works. listen again.

  8. Thierry says:

    Add me to the list of people pleasantly surprised to see you enjoying some Anderson/Butler magic! I agree that Here Come The Tears has some great moments, though Brett’s lyrics are sometimes as weak as on some of the later Suede stuff. Will you be writing about McAlmont and Butler as well? To me, "Falling" is one of this decade’s greatest overlooked single.

  9. Thierry says:

    singleS.

  10. Frank says:

    See, the thing about writing about Suede now is that I pretty much won’t write about them again, cause there’s not much more to be said. Live in the past, die in the present. but no reason you can’t go back and visit once in a while.

    Jack – I’d like to check out that book but the library hereabouts doesn’t have it. I’ll dig around some bookstores.

    Dave – if my coverage bums you out so much, why on earth have you been coming back for so long? And i might add that some of that "blandness" is coming from your own company’s roster… Anyway, I would re-listen to Head Music again but I sold my copy ages ago. I do recall a few high points but mostly the impressions I’ve retained are that it was overlong and aimless. And I admit I only heard the singles from A New Morning but they turned me off so hard I had no desire to hear more (which also in a way affected my judgement of Head Music as not a misstep, but part of a steady decline). For me, Suede = Butler/Anderson and I’m pretty comfortable with that restriction.

    Thierry – Yes.

  11. AngryRobot says:

    Here’s some info on the upcoming Brett Anderson solo record, in case you haven’t already seen it:

    http://www.brettanderson.co

  12. Karl says:

    re: SxSW

    I would be excited about the Stooges. I would be optimistic that the Hoodoo Gurus can still bring it (and when they’re on, they’re on). And mildly disturbed that the Pipettes aren’t listed… yet.

  13. hilary says:

    i agree with your analysis of dog man star… and its unapologetic melodrama is part of what i love best about it. and the bleak yet glamour-laden lyrics… it was the soundtrack to my late teens for a good reason. "i heard you call from across the city through the stereo sound, and so i crawled there sickeningly pretty as the money went round."

  14. ricky says:

    awesome post man, dog man star is my favorite album. Nice to see ya take a break from all the 00s indie bands to post about a classic britpop era band.

  15. Jerad says:

    Dog Man Star was one of the first "Britpop" albums I bought after being told by a college friend, who was my UK music guru at the time, that I needed to buy that, the Stone Roses first, and Different Class (Pulp). After those purchases, there was no going back. Dog Man Star definitely crushes anything else Suede has done. My dark horse favorite on the album is "Two of Us."

  16. Boots Chiggins says:

    Love me the Suede. Been jamming lately to some MP3s ripped from the "Introducing the Band" DVD. Good times in my earholes, friends. Yes ma’am.

  17. Jim says:

    Dog Man Star has a very high place on my shelf. Thanks for reminding me how much I love it, Frank.

  18. KC says:

    Great post. This triggered a watching of the awesomely ridiculous Love and Poison, with this rendition of He’s Dead probably being one of the greatest live Suede moments:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=

    Weird Brett slithering, inexplicable fluid splash, and excellent Bernard guitar payoff. Thanks for transporting me back to high school!

  19. James says:

    Frank, awesome post. I remember putting the full version of Stay Together on one of my CD compilations back in 2001. My liner note: "Another lush orchestral song, ostensibly by a ‘rock’ band. For me, this was the pinnacle of Suede’s sound."

    I didn’t realize the Stay Together EP was so rare.

  20. Vieille Canaille says:

    Adoro o priemiro álbum deles! É um dos melhores álbuns pop de sempre!

  21. max says:

    DMS is just my favourite record. It’s so lovely and bleak at the same time. It always makes me think of being in the gutter but looking up at the stars.

    And then looking back down at the gutter again.

    I’m listening to the 2 of Us right now: there aren’t a lot of moments in Britpop that are as keenly, unironically emotional as the build to "Alone but not lonely/You and me" and I love it.