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We Are The Pigs - my Suede

Suede, or The London Suede or was it Suede UK... used to mean something...

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by Shane O'Reilly, Editor, Dublin for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2006
Tambourines - Always incendiary.

There were hardly any survivors of the 'Britpop' era. It had Blur (exceptional genius), Oasis (very rough and short-lived genius) and then others - the magnificent Pulp, crap like Echobelly, Shed Seven, Sleeper, Cast and of course the freak accidental genius of the Longpigs first album. Their second album sucked. It bombed along with a lot of other meaningless bands like Dodgy, Baby Bird, Boo Radleys, Cable, Space and, eventually and unfortunately, Ash (who are not meaningless - I was once a very obsessed young fan - but no longer, in my opinion, have little to offer to today's market).

Don't forget, this 'market' was not as saturated as it is now, bands tended to last up to a third album, possibly longer. Anyways, I stumbled, yet again, onto some old Suede tunes (or London Suede, depending on what side of the pond you live on). It was 'Stay Together' - written supposedly as an ode to the guitarists, Bernard Butler, father - having passed. Truly great stuff; a verse similar to that 'If your mother only knew' sampled Razhel song, but better and a chorus to shred ice-caps. Tambourines. Claps. High vocals...Ķ.

(Tambourines - spice really. It's sprinkled onto the meat of rock 'n' roll for some extra flavour. Always incendiary. Always useful. Clapping - likewise, should never be mistreated or overstated. Bowie was bang on with it - 'Golden Years' or the Lou Reed totem 'Satellite of Love' - Clapping basically made these songs. Along with Michael Jackson, Bowie uses backing vocals like no other to enhance the songs further. Highly skilled at arrangements of course, these men stirred more soul and depth into a three minute pop tune than we could muster in a year. Or two)

So, for these reasons and some glorious lyrics, Suede immediately appealed to my sensibilities. They had the Smiths and Bowie, glam rock and androgyny in their pockets. They bore down upon us with twanging guitars and trembling strings, weeping and roaring. The principal song-writers lay in lead singer Brett Anderson and his lead guitarist, the stated Butler. They fought and fought, so Butler got the kick. Too much ego bouncing around. Both were effectively assholes to work with. That and Anderson loved drugs. Loved them. Crack. And heroin. Ever heard of a Jaquoranda? No? You're missing out my friend. It has a deer's head and wears a sari. Ok, well, I'd never heard of one either but during an interview, a far, far, away Anderson promoted this newest and fondest creation of his.

It is all that tragedy and endless romanticism. It just sucks me in. Imagine Edgar Allen Poe as a rocker. In tight pants (more than likely the leopard skin type), hair swept and wild as the wind. That's Suede right there, like it or not. If you have not heard them - shame on you, give them a listen. Take your pick - 'new generation', 'animal nitrate', the wild ones', we are the pigs' or next life'. They flow effortlessly, each and every one. Anything really from their first three albums (bit of a new line-up on 'Coming Up' - the third - but still excellent).

You cannot overstate how important Suede were either. Before they had released any material, they were being touted as the best British band. This was 1992, and as the album 'Suede' came out it won the Mercury Music Prize, had many hit singles (the marvellous 'The Drowners' and 'Mickey Metal') and was the fastest selling British debut since Frankie goes to Hollywood's 'Welcome to the Pleasuredome'. They WERE the all new, brighter, smarter, ever more elegant version of Morrissey and Marr. No less poetic or gravitational either. Their songs spoke volumes, feeding the frenzy of growing fans. The music itself, its bare bones, was all sex, drugs, youthful fumblings, mistakes, romance, death, fear, smoggy distances and seas of tortured souls, the angst and yet more sleazy sex. Rules were bent. Sexuality being ever more ambiguous and dangerous. By their second album, 'Dog Man Star', yet more changes had come about.

Suede, or rather Anderson/Butler, decided they needed that sweeping seduction increased and more strings brought in. As if through a gigantic smokescreen, twelve songs were crafted - all hazy, druggy, sleepy stuff. It was an exceptional album. Butler left early (his last words to Anderson - 'You're a fuckin' cunt' - to which I'm sure at the time Anderson couldn't care less). So left alone, the singer topped up the guitar parts and sat back to delve yet further into a good solid drug addiction. Although failing to replicate success in America, Europe fell in love with them. The third album, funnily enough after Butler's departure, sold in the millions. But isn't that always the way (it spawned five top ten hits).

And then - that was it. Their fourth and fifth productions were poor and the guitarist's solo career was largely ignored. They made up apparently as a duo last year under the guise - Tears, but that has been very quiet. These men could have been gods. Big gigantic axe-wielding, cocaine snorting ones. We will never know the true details of the original falling out, there are varying stories (Anderson locking all Butlers guitars outside on the street and firing him from a window. Butler accusing Anderson of being a paedophile, etc, it goes on).

Alternative neo-glam Britpop never looked or felt so bloody good, and probably never will.

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Shane O'Reilly
Editor, Dublin


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