Suede - Suede (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Suede (1993)


Suede, a band credited with kicking off Britpop who then distanced itself from it as much as possible, entered pop music with a bang: the swaggering, stomping "The Drowners", a playful rocker possibly about a queer makeout session, maybe not - the band would let you decide. Suede, led by effeminate singer Brett Anderson and the brilliant guitarist Bernard Butler (til he was kicked out while making the second album), created a world for the listener to drown in, one steeped in drugs, fucking, and council estate drama as defined by Anderson's hysterical vocals and poetic, melodramatic lyrics. The first album, Suede, is more a concert set list than a fully conceived album, opener "So Young" more an introduction than a full on drum snare, but the songs are so hooky and compelling that it's hard to truly care.

This is in part thanks to Bernard Butler, one of the most underrated British guitar players in rock history and especially a great melodic songwriter: the central riff of "Animal Nitrate" is fluid, graceful, but utterly muscular, the embodiment of a Jean Genet anti-hero matched by Anderson's frustrated "What does it to take to turn you on/Now your animal's gone?" "Moving" is a pefect mix of furious drumming by Simon Gilbert and punky speed playing, Anderson's bitchy narrator taking us through weird rock kids. But throughout the furious rock songs are matched by ballads like "Pantomime Horse", a gentle, half-acoustic lament that slowly but surely churns itself into a storm of confused sexuality: "I was born as a pantomime horse, ugly as the sun as it falls to the floor." One thing I'll say is that there are a few too many ballads in the last half, but the double punch of the sauntering, T-Rexish "Metal Mickey" and "Animal Lover" also make up for this. 

Moody, piano-led closer "The Next Life" then left the band at an interesting place, a meditation before the insane, decadent Dog Man Star, the sacking of Butler, and the rise of a pop movement of lads and Union Jacks that the effeminate Suede had little interest in (not that all the bands of that period did anyway). In some ways Suede is remembered more for their being in the right place/right time than for their ambitious, often wonderfully dramatic songs. But even apart from it's importance in British rock history, Suede is an excellent debut from a band that was already coming close to soaring into the sun.

Note: Suede's B-sides have now been repackaged along with the albums they were released around and they're absolutely worth looking into, that or buying the old collection Sci-Fi Lullabies. Like the Smiths they rewarded fans by releasing some of their best work that way, and "My Insatiable One" and "To The Birds" for instance are truly great songs. See also "Stay Together" a gargantuan, absolutely ridiculous soap opera of a single.