Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 34)
Not Blur, not Oasis, not Pulp, not even Radiohead could match Suede for quality of B-sides. Using The Smiths as their standard, Suede used the B-sides of singles as a chance to explore ideas that didn’t fit on their records. Instead of the bombastic theatricality of their albums, the 27 tracks gathered on Sci-Fi Lullabies
are built on texture and atmosphere. At 122 minutes and bereft of the fiery rave ups of an “Animal Nitrate” or “We Are the Pigs”, it’s a daunting listen, one that I wouldn’t recommend attempting a front to back play through under any circumstances but one that is well worth the effort.
leads with the stellar B-sides to debut single “The Drowners”, “My Insatiable One” and “To the Birds”. The former flitting through one of Brett Anderson’s best vocal melodies and most daring lyrics (“On the escalator/We *** paracetamol”) while the latter spins about Bernard Butler’s circular guitar riff. Butler in particular seems to truly thrive on the B-side of things, lacing “He’s Dead” with one of his best solos ever, a dizzying psycho carnival ride. Anderson, meanwhile, favors the gutter side of Suede’s gutter glamour, penning epic curtain call ballads like “The Big Time” and “The Living Dead”. “My Dark Star” stands as one of Suede’s finest moments, a haunting tale of a woman from India with “cemetery eyes” and “a tattooed tit”. Elsewhere, “Killing of a Flashboy” flex’s some of Suede’s signature brontosaurus stomp while “Whipsnade” grooves on unlocked snare drum and one of Butler’s most distinctive riffs.
Beginning with disc one’s “Together”, Sci-Fi Lullabies
switches to the Richard Oakes era and unlike their albums the transition is almost seamless. If you found Coming Up
to be an overly peppy, day-glo nightmare, this is your album. Disc two of Sci-Fi Lullabies
keeps that album’s neon sheen but trades its optimism for a velvety swoon and it’s every bit as good as disc one. The beautiful “Another No One” plays like the teenage cousin of “She’s Leaving Home”. “Every Monday Morning Comes” and “The Sound of the Streets” are both pop thrills, among the catchiest songs Suede ever made. The fierce “Have You Ever Been This Low?” and “W.S.D.” both burn like bullets. There’s also far more experimentation than on Coming Up
, dig those detective film vibraphone flourishes on “Sadie”.
Most bands will never touch an A-side this good. Hell, most bands would be thrilled to put out any song here as a lead single. That Suede were daring enough to throw them to the b-side is a testament to just how on top of their game they were during the 90s (It also begs the question: Why do any of their albums have filler?). Sci-Fi Lullabies
is a B-sides collection of unprecedented quality. Even The Smiths much vaunted ”Louder Than Bombs”
was almost an hour shorter than this. There isn’t a bad song on Sci-Fi Lullabies
, most of them are superb.