All wrapped in androgyny and attitude...
Chris Jones 2007-04-19
Feted as the ‘best new band in Britain’ before they’d even released a single, Suede must surely be the one band of the Britpop pack who had to endure the most fallout from press. Yet, they survived. A large amount of this was because their debut album actually did live up to the noise.
Always in with the right crowd, Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler’s band had, by the time this had been released, put up with their rhythm guitarist, Justine Frischmann, running off with a rival’s lead singer, an inability to find a drummer and a whole shed load of comparisons to other acts. To be fair Suede does carry its influences on its sleeve, but this was 1993 and post-modernism was the flavour du jour anyway. Frischmann’s next band, Elastica, certainly aped both the Stranglers and Wire, and Oasis’ slavish devotion to the Pistols and Beatles didn’t stop them coining it. Suede’s main sources were Bowie (in Anderson’s wonderfully fey delivery) and the Smiths. Ironically, Mike Joyce of the Smiths was a member for a short spell, but their bleak chronicles of urban dysfunction, modern love and sexual confusion were never a million miles away from Morrissey’s home ground.
Having said that, the band had enough chutzpah and originality to weather the comparisons with ease. Bernard Butler’s awesome technique was the ace in the pack. Propelling three-minute bursts of pop perfection like “Metal Mickey” and “The Drowners” into the singles charts, the bands’ sham-glam reeked of a new kind of decadence, laced with black humour. The key text here is “Animal Nitrate”. Despite its punning title it’s a thrill-seeking slice of cynicism that perfectly summed up what it was like to be young and chemically imbalanced in the nation’s capital at the time. This was a foreshadow of Blair’s Britain. The way it sold (the fastest selling album of all time and straight in at number one) showed that the public not only believed the hype; they wanted it. All wrapped in androgyny and attitude, Suede delivered everything that we’d hoped for and more. Their fortunes were never to be as good again.