Thursday, 21 November 2013

Suede - the best Britpop band that weren't and other failures

I know its been a while but I really haven't had much new news to bring you. The brilliant autumn leaves and colours are beginning to yield to the wind and rain and becoming a brown mush at your feet. Even the welcoming trees of Ropner Park are now beginning to look like bony fingers, in my case usually the index and middle fingers of a hand, extended. 

Not one to waste the opportunity for a euphemism, I am currently enjoying unlimited free time with no income so see Blessay's passim for what that's like, suffice to say that the online job market is even more haphazard than previously. I don't think I'm adequately qualified for babysitting, bouncing or brochure distribution opportunities which is a pity as these are by far the three most frequent assignments that appear on the less than perfect recommendations sections of the various jobsites. 

Yes, it's set back our relocation project but Stacey was coming over for Christmas anyway, as it was too close to the date to put in a formal application, so she'll be here in a couple of weeks for the Yule season and Vince is still doing fantastically and giving me reason to get up and make breakfast every morning, followed by online job hunting with Christmas and Vintage music channels playing in the background to force a mood of festivity if none exists - but that's a little harsh, I'm nothing if not a Christmas Kid and it doesn't take much to get me in the mood - even The Cheeky Girls in November will do it, which is handy. 

Anyway, spare time in the day allows me to get more tasks done so it frees up time in the evening to catch up on TV and movies I've missed in the intervening four years. I finally caught up with 'The World's End' the other day - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's final part of the Cornetto Trilogy which started with Shaun of the Dead and followed up with Hot Fuzz.  It follows a man-child and his mature friends as they attempt to relive the best night of their youthful lives, which the lead character never get over, and complete the 12 pub crawl in their home town which culminated in the famous 'World's End'.  There is a sci-fi sub-plot but as usual the strongest observations are on how society, friendships and life itself changes or not over 20 intervening years.  Brilliant dialogue, an amazing soundtrack (more on this soon) and tremendous performances all round elevate it over the typical British comedy but I found it very close to home in places, which is maybe the point. 

I would give any film two thumbs up if it has The Beautiful South and Primal Scream on the soundtrack but Suede too...

For two years, Suede strode across the British pop landscape like a lone colossus, sure Take That were doing there thing but for shoegazing indy kids like myself there was only one game in town and it was the fey, proto-emo, proto-britpop boys from south London - Brett, Bernard and Co. 

The first album, self-titled, gave us a glimpse of the swaggering, emotional literacy and lyricism of Brett Anderson's vocals and writing but married (figuratively) to the soaring musical orchestration led by Bernard Butler, the best British guitarist since Johnny Marr, and you've got something special. The Drowners, Metal Mickey, Animal Nitrate and the song featured on the soundtrack So Young were all instant classics and very much of a time - 1993, self confident, sensing the beginning of a new time - we didn't know it was going to be Britpop, New Labour, Sky Sports, The Premier League, Simon Cowell and more, but we knew it was going to be our time.  It also dovetailed nicely with my first year at University so it was an incredible backdrop to seminal events and great nights out with still great friends. 

Dog Man Star was the follow-up album and observers immediately sensed the change in tone, direction and indeed relationships within the band, the calm after a storm, it even sounded like a house after a blazing row, which in terms of Anderson and Butler's fractured relationship, it was. Songs such as Heroine and The Two of Us, liberally sprinkled with Byron quotes and Hollywood references along with strings and a genuine unrequited longing which is ambrosia to the confused and miserable Northern student in at the best of times, it was a stretch and a reach and while not entirely successful, at least showed you can have a go and succeed on your own scale if not a grander one, say the charts. They also released Stay Together - a colossal single and three supporting tracks including The Living Dead, possibly their greatest work together. 

Like all tragic stories, when they should have been at their pinnacle in terms of cultural reward, influence, cache and fame, Butler left, as Marr left The Smiths before him and derailed the project allowing Blur, Oasis, Pulp and Elastica to jostle for the crown and affections of the court. The Britpop thread that starts with Suede continues here as Brett's ex Justine Frischmann, lead singer with Elastica became Damon Albarn's tragic lost love seeing Blur's jaunty Parklife/Great Escape salad days morph into the darker 13.

Suede continued with a new guitarist Richard Oakes, and added a keyboardist, never a good sign, and while Coming Up, released in 1997 was their greatest commercial hit, by then I and many other fans had moved on, musically and with our lives, and the strong hits, of which they were with Trash and Electricity, were so much commercial radio fodder while we, individually and collectively, were moving on with our lives - and living. 

What 'The World's End' did, not only with its soundtrack but also its themes of unrequited ambition and refusal to move on and accept diminished horizons and possibilities, was to suddenly and emotionally bring me back to a time and period in my life that I had totally forgotten about.  Like seeing a girl you had a brief, intense love affair with years before and never saw again, I didn't expect Suede to come back into my life but I'm glad they have.