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.
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.