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"A 50 knuckle shuffle heavy metal machine",
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This review is from: Dog Man Star [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
Four or five years ago, there was minimal, if any, talk about Suede - they seemed to have slipped into Britpop's dustbin, despite having preceded said "movement" by a couple of years. Thank goodness, then, that they reformed and their fans have decided to remind themselves of how brilliant they actually were.
Like it or not, there were two Suedes and this release represents the peak of the first - an extraordinary, self-contained suite of darkly glamorous, dislocated torch songs for a post-everything universe. It's important to remind 2011 of exactly how ambitious and isolated Suede were in 1994 - against a backdrop of chirpy indie-pop and stadium-eyeing mundanity, they created an album so audibly crepuscular that the group's fracture was immediately understandable on the first listen. Brett Anderson's lyrics are amongst his best - whilst they are certainly dystopian and, in places, all too redolent of 4am substance psychosis (the creepy, immersive "Daddy's Speeding"), they are playful ("Introducing The Band") and truly soulful - "The Wild Ones" is so strikingly compassionate as to instantly render virtually all their supposed contemporaries hackneyed and lame. Bernard Butler's dilemma is laid particularly bare on this new edition - the previously unheard longer versions of "The Wild Ones" and "The Asphalt World" show him at his most indulgent and his most thrillingly expressive respectively. The fact that the dirty glam thrash of "This Hollywood Life" and the tragic, lonely piano ballad "The 2 of Us" sit side by side on this album is a perfect illustration of the scope and talent these writers possessed together. Throughout, Mat Osman's bass strikes the perfect balance between the melodic and the supportive and Simon Gilbert's bluesy, expressive drumming - the unsung delight of Suede's career as a whole - is deployed expertly.
At the time, this album felt strange due to the circumstances of its making and release - it was hard not to feel sorry for Richard Oakes, obliged to mime Butler's parts for television and written off almost instantly due to his youth. Within two years, Oakes would prove himself beyond even the most jaundiced argument but we'll deal with that separately. Today, "Dog Man Star" feels strange because it *is* strange - an exceptional, totally individual statement of incredible skill, vision and emotional weight. And now, you can have it with all its relevant satellite B-sides (as well as a slightly edited "Stay Together") and a useful DVD of single-camera live footage, gig projections and an only-slightly-awkward Butler/Anderson interview. A necessary archive document of a totally singular work.