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Sunday, April 11, 2010

BP #4 - Suede

The founding fathers of Brit-pop took off quickly and flamed out fast.

Formed by childhood friends Brett Anderson and Mat Osman, who formed a core for the life of the band, these two were joined by Bernard Butler on guitar. Butler joined after answering an add in New Musical Express looking for a "non-muso." Butler and Anderson were the song writing duo who made them great. Justine Frischmann (Elastica) also had a short stint in the band early on as a guitarist and as Anderson's girlfriend. She left to form Elastica and broke up with Anderson, which gave him the inspiration to write much of Suede's best material.
The band was rounded out by Simon Gilbert on drums, but they almost had Mike Joyce (drummer from The Smiths) to take that spot. Joyce would help them record early demos and land a record contract.

Their first single The Drowners, seems like nothing earth shattering now but at the time it was a huge departure from the Shoegaze bands of England and the Grunge of America. It was guitar driven music that embraced British life. Anderson sang with an accent.

The next single Metal Mickey went to number 17 in the UK charts and had everyone in the UK declaring them the saviors of British rock. The video for the song shows the sexual ambiguity that Brett Anderson had embraced. his break up with Justine sent him off the deep end and he embraced this whole David Bowie ideal.

Here is Metal Mickey live on the Tonight Show. Apparently guitarist Bernard Butler was sick of Brett Anderson at this point and him stomping at the camera is his way of saying piss off. Suede never hit it big in the US and this lead to more tension in the band

I can remember being in college and seeing the cover to Suede's first album and being unsure what was going on:

I didn't buy the album then, but I remember when they came on tour with The Cranberries. The Cranberries got famous and they floundered. America was not ready for this bizarre English group that blurred the lines between male and female. Brett Anderson also played up this persona and Bernard Butler grew tired of it. Butler just wanted to make great music, while Anderson wanted fame. During there US tour Butler's father passed away and this further alienated him within the group. The band was also forced to change their name in the US to London Suede due to a lawsuit over the band name. With all this chaos going on they were still huge in England and the self titled album went to number one and was the fastest selling debut record ever at that point in music history. The huge single that lead the charge was Animal Nitrate. You'll have to go to youtube to see the video.
Another great track from the album, performed live:

1993 belonged to Suede in the UK! Their self titled album sold through the roof, they won the Mercury Prize in Britain, and they were stars. Brett Anderson loved the lifestyle, the notoriety, and the drugs. Bernard Butler had enough, while working on the follow-up album Butler left the group. The rest of the band was along for the ride and Richard Oakes a 17 year old guitar prodigy was added after Butler left.
The last Anderson/Butler composition, Stay Together is arguably their best:

Suede never quite reached the heights that their first album achieved, but the follow album Dog Man Star sold just as well and the critics liked it. It lacked the guitar punch without Butler and didn't have the hit singles. You can see the contrast in singles like the Wild Ones:

Due mostly to drugs, a revolving door of band members, and the success of Blur and Oasis, Suede faded away. They did have a temporary resurgence in 1996/97 with the album Coming Up and five top ten songs from the album. I dig the song The Beautiful Ones:

and Trash:

What is obvious watching all these tracks is they lack variety. Suede were a one sound wonder, but an important first step in Brit-pop that never went anywhere.

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