Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 6)
Ian Brown had the ambition, Sean Ryder had the wit, neither of them had any sex appeal. Ian was too bland, Sean looked like a brick wall. Waking up next to either of them didn’t seem likely or enticing.
Enter Brett Anderson.
As soon as Suede officially hit the scene in 1992 the British press were dying for someone they could prop up as the next big star of the local music scene and Brett was ready and willing to take that job. He proceeded to pose and preen for every magazine cover that would have him, from Melody Maker
to the infamous Select
cover that boldly declared “Yanks go home!” Britian finally had someone to play lithe and mysterious for the new wave of British rock. The scene was finally getting the kick it needed; things were going to move fast from here.
As clear a cultural force, as it seems now, Britpop almost didn’t happen. After the implosion of the Roses/Mondays British rock was beset by no hit washouts, the scene was dismissed as a flash in the pan. The press returned to covering American musical happenings. Things became stagnant again.
Brett Anderson and Justinne Frichmann were going to school together when they first met. Justinne, later the lead singer of Elastica, would prove essential to Suede. She acted as de facto manager, setting up gigs and dropping off demo tapes while the band hammered out their style.
Due to a talent in decidedly non-glamorous subjects in school, Brett absconded to college with intent to major in town planning. Ambitions in that field started to go out the window once him and Justine met Bernard Butler through an advertisement placed in the NME
, Butler’s technique, learned through covering Smiths songs, was spindly and complex, possessing a showiness that would later foster tensions between him and Bret.
Justine left Bret towards the end of their college career. The breakup shattered the bliss Bret had found in their relationship, igniting a newfound desire to make it somewhere with his band. But 1991 was not buying what he was selling. Grunge was on the come up and record labels weren’t looking forward. Bret was writing songs that focused on the twisted desires of claustrophobic London suburb residents, something that didn’t sit well with the charts at the time. But as the tide began to change in 1992, Suede landed a gig at an NME
sponsored show that netted them a record deal.
Generally accepted as the official start of Britpop, Suede
arrived on a thundercloud of hype and became the fastest selling debut album in British history. It isn’t hard to see why, its galvanizing stuff, the kind of big, stylish noise you want in on almost immediately. Butler fashions his guitar lines into shimmering cobras, darting and hissing with venom. The prickling guitar lines of “So Young” and “Animal Nitrate” contain as much showy angst as Anderson’s wounded wails do.
Often overshadowed, Simon Gilbert lifts the massive boom of hair metal drumming while leaving behind the twenty-two tom-tom set up. Ed Buller’s production was often called into question by the rest of the band, it sounds excellent to me, giving the ballads loads of room and keeping the guitar high in the mix.
So come for the festival selling singles, stay for the even better ballads. Anderson posses a falsetto like golden neon, it slides through “She’s Not Dead” and “Sleeping Pills” with a ghostly revere. His lyrics always fall on the right side of drama queen, melodramatic and beautiful. “’I would die for the stars’ she said,” he swoons, “This is what I get for my beautiful head.” Above all, his opening line for “The Drowners” is killer. “Won’t someone/Give me a gun”, delivered with all the flare and panache of a suicidal starlet.
The importance and influence of this record cannot be overstated (Placebo owes this album everything
put the “cool” in Cool Britania, it made bombastic English pop something to admire. The magazines had their star, the indie kids had their guitarist, the pop charts had their singles. The pieces were in place for Britpop to make its grand arrival.