By: Eric Greenwood
Suede has only been around for six years but what a drama it’s been. The band stormed onto the scene in 1993 heralded as the flavor of the week by the British press and sold piles and piles of records with a sound very reminiscent of glam period Bowie mixed with Marc Bolan. Suede’s catty, androgynous strutting fueled the fire of teenage girls while stroking their own pretty boy egos. It didn’t hurt that the songs were strong enough to support all the hype and then some. Vocalist Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler were deemed the Morrissey and Marr for the nineties, which, in retrospect was, perhaps, a bit of an overstatement, but the tag stuck nonetheless.
After recording Dogman Star, the follow up to the self-titled Suede, Bernard Butler announced his departure from the band, citing creative differences. The British press had a field day waiting to see if Suede would fall on its face with half of the creative force of the band gone, but 17 year old guitarist Richard Oakes joined and silenced the doubters. He seemed to mimic Butler’s style, but that’s probably because he was playing Butler’s songs live. The following album, Coming Up, proved that Oakes had the chops, but the record seemed shallow compared to Suede’s other work. It was showy and catchy, but it lacked the classic quality of the early work even though it did introduce a shift towards electronic sounds thanks to the addition of keyboardist Neil Codling.
With its line-up firmly intact Suede drops its fourth album, Head Music, on us with a relaxed confidence and assuredness. Head Music fills in the gaps of Coming Up and succeeds in being the best record the band has made since its debut, finally laying Bernard Butler’s looming ghost to rest. The first single and opening track, “Electricity” is an instant classic. Anderson’s dynamic vocals soar in the chorus while the rest of the band charges with an intensity not seen since “Animal Nitrate.” Anderson’s lyrics sometimes seem to lampoon himself, but he pulls it off, especially on “Can’t Get Enough”: “I get kicks I rip it up kick it up take it like a teenage tough/I feel real now talking like sugar and shaking that stuff.” The band’s electronic dabbling permeates this record and work best on “She’s In Fashion” and the title track. “Asbestos” adds a bluesy flavor to the mix. Suede has managed to slip by the whole Britpop debacle unscathed and in top form.