Brett and Bernard's big bust-up album. Lovelier than ever...
Chris Jones 2007-09-21
After the party – the hangover: One year on from the louche-but-rocking debut, Suede had begun to irrevocably fracture at their very core. Luckily, out of such travails are great works of art born.
By this point the chemistry (in all senses) was becoming a little strained. Retreating into a drug-assisted solitude, Brett Anderson’s lyrics were less concerned with the politics of modern love and more with the effects of the morning after. Solitude, paranoia and self-loathing were the themes here. When he sings ‘If you stay we’ll be the wild ones…’ it’s with a quiet desperation that’s clinging to a lifestyle that’s gone horribly wrong.
The downbeat mood pervades everything here. Even on peppier rockers like “The Hollywood Life” or “New Generation” the guitars of Bernard Butler here sound more spiteful, suffused with a vicious metallic edge. It was here that they formerly parted from the Britpop pack as well (‘I don’t care for the UK tonight’ sings Brett on “Black And Blue”).
At the heart of this album is the real-life drama of Anderson’s and Butler’s increasing alienation. Before the album had even been mixed the pair, once touted as a Lennon and McCartney for the post-E generation, had split. Butler subsequently told of how he turned up to the studio one day to find all his equipment outside the locked door.
Yet, while Dog Man Star stands as a testament to the destructive power of thrill-seeking love and ego-bloating drugs it remains a far deeper and sonically adventurous ride than its predecessor. There’s still a huge dollop of Scott Walker-meets-Bowie-in-the-streets-of-Soho-at-5-in-the-morning archness that can grate. And Anderson’s melodrama can be slightly over-egged on tracks like “The 2 Of Us”, yet with its reverb-drenched lushness and fabulously melancholy audio verite ambience (virtually every track is prefaced by or marbled with some low-key moodiness that recalls Talk Talk’s golden period) it’s an album that continues to fascinate and reward: It’s possibly their least dated work.
While the band struggled heroically (and succeeded) to consolidate their success after Butler’s departure the legend of the band’s lost potential really stems from Dog Man Star. Never had misery sounded so alluring, reaching out to all the lonely urbanites that ever woke up alone. For this alone it remains timeless.