Friday, October 22, 2010

Best of Suede

This new best-of will be released in a couple of weeks, hot on the heels of a mini-reunion of sorts for the band. Brett Anderson was interviewed yesterday in The Guardian, and isn't it disappointing when your musical heroes turn out to be just as small-minded as your dad's?

Quietness seems inimical to Suede: Anderson misses the danger and fierceness his band used to thrive on. "I do find it weird that the last 10 years hasn't thrown up a new definitive genre. It seems that music is here to placate now, rather than provoke. Maybe a sense of apathy has crept in, or people's lives are too comfortable. No one wants to inspire extremity, as we used to do."

And there you have it, musical fogies from every generation complain about the music that the kids are listening to these days. "Things were so much better in the old days, when my band was on top! That was when music was real." For most of their career, Suede were only too happy to "placate" their fans by sticking to well-established genres. Suede were a number of things, but risk-takers they were not. They never strayed too far from a safe, signature sound.

That said, Suede have had a great post-mortem career. Nobody wants to look back and feel embarrassed about the music they used to like. The definitive history of Suede could have been written as it happened. They're still viewed as pioneers who helped kickstart a new wave of British bands in the 90's. The megahype media blitz that preceded the release of their debut single and continued all throughout '92 and '93 is still the blueprint for making and breaking new bands in the UK. If anything, Suede are more respected for that today, because they survived the media onslaught, lived up to their hype, and managed to have a long and successful career.

Most fairweather fans of the band would also tell you now (and would have told you then) that the band peaked in their first two years, or IOW, things weren't the same after Bernard Butler left. Judging from the track listing on their new Best Of, Brett Anderson believes it too. The first disc (the "hits") is dominated by their early singles, while their later albums are covered much more sparingly. And the second disc (b-sides and album tracks) is totally dominated by Anderson/Butler tracks. Even casual fans knew that the b-sides were essential to the Suede story, and anyone who swooned over "My Dark Star" or "My Insatiable One" in the mid-90's can rest assured that nobody's opinion has changed about that.

I personally believe that Suede peaked with the "Stay Together" single, which was released right before Butler left the band. They never seemed quite as invincible ever again. However, their strongest album, on a track-by-track basis, was their third, "Coming Up". But if you can only afford to buy one Suede album, it should be "Sci-Fi Lullabies". A b-sides history of Suede is probably even more genuine and more essential than their a-sides history -- it brings you closer to the soul of the band and the reasons why so many people loved their music.


Sandra said...

Ah Suede. Still remember that concert...the one where Bernie's sweat flew into Samantha's eye. And she was never the same again.

Barry said...

His sweat flew into her eye? How am I only finding out about this now? :)