In order to understand the Tears, one must start off with Suede. For those unfamiliar with either band, the story is unfortunate but all too common. Back in the early 90s, Suede were proclaimed the next big thing, the band who would move English music away from the "Madchester" psychedelia inspired rave/pop music of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Think the Libertines or the Strokes. That kind of hype. Only they had the musical talent to back it up. Led by singer Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler, the duo fused the Beatles, the Smiths, Roxy Music and other iconic British acts and sounds seamlessly. Their lead single "The Drowners" was a remarked success and by the time their debut album Suede
was released in 1993 they were bona-fide superstars. Though it couldn't have been known at the time, the release of their debut is now recognized as a turning point in British music and marked the beginning of the Britpop movement which would dominate the island for the next few years.
Expectedly, the friction which caused Butler and Anderson to work so well together drove them apart. Like many British partners of times past (Lennon/McCartney, Morrissey/Marr, Ferry/Eno - interestingly, some of Suede's biggest influences) the friendly competition between the two eventually escalated to a point where they could no longer stand each other. As is famously told, Butler walked out during the recording of their sophomore effort Dog Man Star
and never looked back. It should be noted that these two literally hated
each other - the chances of them reunited seemed about as likely as Lennon and McCartney getting back together to tour next month.
Anderson and the rest of Suede (drummer Simon Gilbert, and bassist Mat Osman, at the time) completed the album and released it to the notable dismay of both critics and the publics (it is actually a great album and I might do a write up sometime). Butler formed a partnership with vocalist David McAlmont, though the duo did nothing much of note (I have heard 2002's Bring it Back
is actually quite decent but I couldn't back it up). Anderson, meanwhile recruited young guitarist Richard Oakes and managed to squeeze out on more decent album (1996's Coming Up
) before drugs, laziness, and all around bad luck brought about a swift descent for Suede. They still managed to released two more albums before they croaked in 2002, but neither of them offered anything of merit. Anderson was coasting and he knew it. Rather than squeeze out miserable album after miserable album, Anderson disbanded Suede and considered his options. Here's where the Tears come in (alternatively, Here Come The Tears).
Both Anderson and Butler were at low points in their careers. Neither of them had done anything that came close to their joint debut, Suede
. Perhaps they realized this was the only record with both of them fully collaborating, and it was their best work. Hmm, signals flaring. Perhaps they just wanted to try something new. Either way, Anderson and Butler put the past in the past in 2004 and decided to move forward. They set out some strict rules for the reunion - it would not be a reunion (oops). This was not Suede Part II or Anderson & Butler, this was a distinct band. They would not be playing "My Insatiable One" at concerts, just like you wouldn't expect the Gorillaz to play "Parklife", or Jarvis Cocker to bust out "Disco 2000" on the Harry Potter soundtrack. Suede had pretty simple goals, but so far they've reneged on all of them. Though not by choice, the public acknowledges this as a Suede reunion - if they weren't associated with Suede, why would I have taken the time to write out the first half of this review? In order to understand where the Tears are coming from, you have to understand the past of the band. In this case the past of the bands is not playing in local dives or struggles to make it to the big leagues - the Tears' past is Suede. They also have taken to playing some Suede songs at concerts. But most importantly, Here Comes Like the Tears
sounds like Suede, as you would expect Suede to sound, in 2005.
They've grown up. They are no longer 25-year old cokeheads. They've tamed down, both personally and musically. Accordingly, this is not a romping neo-glam record or a swirling psychedelic epic. This is a straight up pop-rock record. Butler's guitar is still distinctive, and probably the best part of the group. You can still hear the Marr or Ferry influences in every track. On the negative side, 10 years haven't really affected Butler's playing positively - he seems no more innovative, experimental, or able than he was at Suede's peak. Of course, he hasn't deteriorated either.
Anderson suffers the same flaws he had while in Suede. Lyrically he is eternally substandard: "So let's take to the streets/You and I compete with the freaks/And like Bonnie and Clyde we'll be free/Don't say there's nothing between us
". Hmm. Well they aren't the worst lyrics I've ever heard, there is no strength in them either. Anderson has a penchant for writing catchy melodies though, and even if his lyrics are subpar, his voice makes up for it.
They lead off with a series of strong songs. "Refugees" (the lead single), "Autograph" and "Co-Star" are all great pop-rock songs which would fit in with any of the best Suede singles. They lack the intensity, but I think this signals progression in some ways - while they are far from torch songs, they don't need to be overly energetic to work for the group. Like Morrissey with his 2004 release You Are the Quarry
or Echo & The Bunnymen's What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?
(1999), there is a certain grace in maturing musically and the Tears have done it quite well.
While the latter half of the album doesn't have the immediate attractiveness of the first half (it's rooted in ballads more so than uppermid-tempo songs), "Brave New Century", "the Asylum" and sparse but fitting closer "A Love As Strong as Death" as highlights.
Despite all of the positive opinions toward Butler's playing and composition techniques, I wasn't as impressed by his performance on this album as I was Anderson's. Perhaps it is because I haven't heard much Butler solo material but am familiar with Anderson's work in Suede that I was expecting another disaster from him. On the contrary, this is a well-made pop-rock album which could serve to end his career at a high point (well, certainly not in a trough) or could open the door for great collaborations in the future for the duo.
I would recommend this to anyone familiar with Suede, especially the latter years, as it will serve as a refreshing surprise. Most Britpop fans will enjoy this - it reminds me of Oasis ballads but less bombastic and with a capable singer. Fans of You Are the Quarry
will likely enjoy this as well. Still, even if you are not familiar with Britpop or are not a fan of Suede, it does meander away from it and is obviously a 2005 record - the sounds are modern and any Suede pastiche is unavoidable, really.