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>
It 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.
Several 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.
“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.
The 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.
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