Three British Bands That I Liked In The 90s: #3 – Suede

Suede 1993, L-R: Simon Gilbert, Bernard Butler, Brett Anderson, Matt Osman

Suede 1993, L-R: Simon Gilbert, Bernard Butler, Brett Anderson, Matt Osman

The third and final British band to make me a die-hard fan in the 90s just barely made their winning impression at the tail end of the decade. That was Suede, who, for those who remember correctly, actually debuted in the marketplace an eternity earlier. I remember it all, since I had been there from the early birth pangs for the band. How and why I didn’t warm to them for the better part of a decade is a story in itself.

In 1992, a friend of mine gave me an air mail subscription to the NME as a birthday present. This could not have been cheap. Personally, the UK rock press had little sway with me at any time, and now I had what might have been a $100 subscription that ensured that the latest frothing rock press hit my mailbox on a very timely basis. Personally, I would have much rather received the purchase cost in actual CDs or records, but there you go. I spent much of 1992 being bombarded with a hype on this band like nothing I’d experienced before. As I mentioned, I never bought UK music papers; money was better spent on actual tuneage! So this was my first [and last] exposure to the famed NME Hype Cycle®.

Even before a single note had ever been released, they were the mighty saviors of the UK music scene. The expectations had built up to Roxy Music 1972-like levels in my mind. Needless to say, once I happened to actually hear this Second Coming of Rock® when an early video finally [was it “Metal Mickey” or “The Drowners”… I can’t remember now] hit MTV’s 120 Minutes in the early months of 1993, I was more than seriously nonplussed. My personal backlash had begun in earnest. I would disdain and ignore Suede from that point onward.

<flash forward six years>

suede - headmusicUSCDAIt wasn’t until some time in 1999 that I was driving around, listening to WPRK-FM in my car, that a song called “She’s In Fashion” managed to catch my ear, and by George… it was actually by Suede! Maybe they had gotten better while I was ignoring them? That single was a lovely, late 60s vibe of a tune with a hint of psychedelia and an attractive melody. Pretty insinuating stuff for a song so subtle on its face. I made a mental note to buy their new album. A few months later, while in Time Traveler Discs in Cuyahoga Falls, I took the leap and was rewarded mightily by the “Head Music” album, which yielded musical obsession after obsession. It was the first album in many years that I played constantly.

suede - suedeUSCDASeveral weeks into playing it, I was still waking up with these songs going full speed in my mind. In particular, the groovy, glamrock stomp of “Can’t Get Enough” just wouldn’t let me go that Summer. Overnight, I did a late-in-the-game volte face on the band and snapped up every one of their other four albums in due course. The 1993 debut was the tentative first step. Not an album that would have turned me into a dyed-in-the-wool fan had I encountered it without the insane hype buildup that had happened. But I wouldn’t have hated it, either. It’s merits were modest but viable.

suede - dogmanstarUSCDA“Dog Man Star” had my favorite Suede song ever on it as the first track. “Introducing The Band” is one of the most amazing songs I’ve heard in the last 20 or so years. The dronerock/shoegaze hybrid still sounds unique to these ears, and the rest of the album wasn’t chopped liver, either. The rock bite of “We Are The Pigs” was stunning next to the half-formed stabs on the debut. And the climax of the album with full string orchestration achieved a tarnished grandeur like nothing else going! Most regard this one as their classic, and though it wasn’t my vector of infection to the band, I can understand why.

suede - comingupUS2xCDAThe next album was available in America in a vastly superior two disc set with a bonus live album and all the multimedia they could fit on both discs. I had already bought the single disc version when I chanced across the limited edition in the used bins somewhere. I bought that and didn’t look back! And by this time the band had lost guitarist Bernard Fowler but tightened their attack with spiky pop chops and an influx of synthesizers that couldn’t alienate me. The group were now having Peter Saville design their sleeves, just as he would soon be doing for Pulp, starting with their “This Is Hardcore” album. But Suede got there first.

Once I began researching the band I was astonished to see that this band were seriously productive. They actually had more non-LP B-sides than album tracks across their discography! The “Sci-Fi Lullabies” package assembled two discs worth and there were many more CD singles that made their way into the Record Cell. Better yet, the band had no remixes of any kind; save for a single track that only got commercially released in America! Here was a band to collect and reward collection!

Then, almost as soon as I got into the band, they released a tepid fifth album and called it quits.  <flash forward 11 years> In 2013, the group reformed and issued their sixth album, “Bloodsports,” which I’ve yet to purchase. It was released during a year where I was saving money for a many concerts/trips and curtailing music purchases, and sadly, that continued into the next year when we took a long vacation for the first time in years. It was onlywhen writing this post that I remmebered that I still don’t have “Bloodsports” and maybe tomorrow, when I am shopping for music in Manifest Discs, I’ll come across a copy. After all, that was where I snagged the OZ bonus track edition of “A New Morning” years ago.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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13 Responses to Three British Bands That I Liked In The 90s: #3 – Suede

  1. Echorich says:

    And as I suspected of you Monk, there is my second and last Britpop Era band that transcended that genre. Suede were/are, for me much more than the NME Hype Machine ever promised or then attempted to destroy. There was a retro vision in their earliest work, but they really didn’t make those influence so very obvious in their songs. Brett Anderson was/is a strong enough frontman to get away with the emotional nihilism he traded in without coming off with on the negative side of pretension. That they survived losing a key component in Bernard Butler is a testament to the quality of their music and ability to adapt.
    I think Dog Man Star is my favorite album, but 2013’s Bloodsport was an immediate favorite as well. And those album covers as as close to Saville toying with Hipgnosis style artwork as he as ever gotten.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Well, if Hipgnosis had the median filter in Photoshop, you’re probably right! I’m just glad I had the chance to discover Suede’s charms organically. The force feeding sure didn’t work! My fave is still “Head Music” but “Dog Man Star” was a close second. “Coming Up” was a corker as well.

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  2. Taffy says:

    Yes! Three for three. Suede slayed me from the first time I heard the Drowners. The debut and Coming Up remain my faves, but I really love every album (except the dull A New Morning) and good lord did they have a way with a b-side. I happily caught the band on every American tour, and will never forget the first time I saw them, Brett Anderson slapping his skinny ass like some possessed androgyne. One of the times I saw them in Boston all their equipment had just been stolen so they were forced to play a “semi-acoustic” gig with borrowed gear. It was magical. Animal Nitrate and Beautiful Ones remain anthems for my inner glitter make-up smeared junkie child. Yes, I have one.
    By the way, since nobody asked, I did quite like some other 90’s Brit bands. First and foremost was Blur, who rocked the Union Jack with panache, at least until they discovered Amer-indie and decided they wanted to be the next Pavement. I adored the spikiness of Elastica, Sonya’s pretty vocals out of Echobelly, and the Scott Walker-isms of the Divine Comedy. Most overrated band was Oasis, of course. They had a few good tunes and a whole catalog of lumpy Beatle-ish (they wished!) retreads.

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    • Echorich says:

      For me Blur and Oasis cancel each other out, with Oasis MAYBE being more memorable for a few songs… Divine Comedy/Neil Hannon are BRILLIANT! He is a rock troubador! Elastica became a fave after Britpop had died it’s death and I could go back and cherry pick amongst the rubble. Somehow I’ve got a soft spot for a band I shouldn’t like – Ocean Colour Scene – it’s something I can’t quite explain – I should dislike their somewhat folky/hippy/60’s feel, but they sound too good to ignore.

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  3. ianbalentine says:

    Amazing. I also vehemently ignored Suede (because of the over hype by the UK music press) until someone gave me a copy of Coming Up, an album that remains one of my faves of the ’90’s. I recently updated my cd’s with the 2cd/dvd “deluxe” editions, which happen to contain all the relevant B-sides, etc, which made Sci-Fi Lullabies redundant. Those B-sides were just as good as the tracks that made the album IMO. Got Bloodsports when it came out but was underwhelmed.

    Glad you mention the Divine Comedy, an artist I have a lot of affection for. Great post!

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  4. Jon Chaisson says:

    Heh. Interesting that this is a band where I bought the first album (and loved it), but completely missed out on the Big Epic, Dog Man Star. Still haven’t quite bonded with that one, really…I think it’s that it just feels a bit out of place for me, although I think it might be that it’s one where I have to listen to it in the context of the time it came out. [And also not think of the Stan Brakhage movie while listening to it.] Loved Coming Up and all the other albums, though!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jon Chaisson – Remembering that I heard them all [except for A New Morning”] in a short period of time [just like when I belatedly became a huge Ultravox fan in late 1980] I more strongly bonded with “Dog Man Star” over the debut. The latter didn’t sound fully formed yet.

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  5. Gavin says:

    My Suede experience is almost a reversal of yours Monk,in that I loved the first single and album and became less enamoured by the time of Coming Up and didn’t even buy Head Music when I saw it for 50p!
    The Britpop scene in London where I lived at the time was very strong and the best indie/gay club in Britain,Popstarz,played them all constantly in one room,with synth pop and 80s electro in the other-quite a heady mix as you can imagine.
    I saw the band live just once,at the Albert Hall,around the time of the release of Dog Man Star.They were epic.
    My favourite album is actually Sci-Fi Lullabies,the only one I still listen to occasionally.
    The loss of Bernard Butler seemed like the end for many fans,but it seems they patched things up.
    Simon,the drummer,was a regular at Popstarz for years.I have a great early docu about them on VHS and still retain a fondness for Brett Anderson’s Bowie-esque style.

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    • Taffy says:

      Oh, Popstarz. A great night, probably my favorite gay club night ever. I was in London when the founder (I think his name was Simon, but NOT the Suede drummer) died and the next Popstarz was a tribute to him with guest DJs that night including Brian from Placebo, Brett Anderson and the god-like Siousxie Sioux. It was a very sad but joyous evening.

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      • Gavin says:

        Yes it was Simon Hobart who ran the club,having previously done the KitKat and Badlands,both of which I frequented.He was a good friend and his untimely passing was a great shock.His clubs were always full of the cream of indie music.

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        • Echorich says:

          I remember going to Popstarz having no idea Goldfrapp would be performing – what a fun night that was. On my trips to London over the years I would go to Badlands, KitKat and Madame JoJo’s. London is way too sanitized these days.

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  6. tim says:

    Suede, meh. I do love me some Bernard Butler, though.

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  7. SimonH says:

    Saw Suede in a tiny club in Bath (Moles) just as the hype machine was starting up – they were impressive, but bizarrely, presumably as a reaction to the hype, some of the audience adopted a hostile, ‘prove yourselves’ kind of stance! Weird looking back.

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