(photo by annieA)
Suede. Ugh, right? People who were 18-20 when Dog Man Star came out eulogise the Butler/Anderson lineup and wet themselves when the Tears came out, despite their failing to live up to any expectations whatsoever. But Suede. Ugh. Suede was that band circa 1996 that had some OK singles, but when you bought the album (say, Coming Up) it was just rubbish. Brett Anderson's a whiny, annoying frontman, and the little bit that Bernard Butler did add soon vanished after his departure (partially recaptured in his interesting, if not utterly captivating solo work and with David McAlmont). The glam-tinged fuzz-indie of most of their sound was in actual fact considerably less interesting than they and the music press of the era believed it to be, leaving the band a failed dictatorship, in some ways.
And yet, every cloud. For this week's Contrast Podcast (subtitle: A Song You Love By A Band You Hate), I didn't contribute. If I had have, I would have picked Suede's Still Life, the closing track of the aforementioned Dog Man Star. It's one of those intensely ambitious, overwrought tracks that just shouldn't work from a mid-level, mid-nineties Britpop band. And yet it's so grandiose, so incredibly huge that by its own pomposity it pulls through to the other side, back to being beautiful.
Anderson's voice has never sounded so tender as when singing about his insect life over a full orchestra. The only other track in which I've ever heard that size of an orchestra work (outside of, y'know, Wagner, or Richard Strauss) is Mercury Rev's The Dark Is Rising, another symphonic, dynamic beauty. But Still Life sounds even more like an actual late Romantic symphony, even less like a string arrangement for a pop song. The timpanis, the tremendous bursts of the string section, wonderful. It's still Suede, but for a moment you forget that and move on, ignoring the fact that the rest of the band's output is woeful and irritating. You're caught in a moment, and it's worth putting aside preconceptions and bias, at least for the duration.
Suede - Still Life
Recommended: Dog Man Star
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
If you like this, you might like: Mercury Rev - All Is Dream
Tags: Suede; Contrast Podcast; Still Life; love; hate; symphony