(Ed's note: Rajan listens to as many albums in a month as I tend to do in a year so will hopefully contributing a smattering of album reviews in the future. Maybe even other stuff too.)
Words: Rajan Lakhani
Suede - 'The Best Of' (Release: 1 Nov '10)
By 2003, the general public had forgotten how important Suede was to British music as they announced their hiatus with a whimper. It was a far cry from their beginnings in 1992, when they were famously labelled the “Best Band in Britain” without having released a single.
Suede brought ambition, glamour, romance and intelligence back into guitar music, breathing new life into the British music scene. Finding beauty in suburban depravity and making heroes of those on the fringes of society, Suede presented a world of escape for their listeners. The emotive nature of their songs meant they were one of those “all-or-nothing” bands, inspiring devotion from their fans and making the term “casual Suede fan” an oxymoron. Their eponymous album was then the fastest selling British debut of all time, winning the Mercury Music Prize. They would go onto create an all-time classic with the dystopian 'Dog Man Star' and that superior slice of indie-pop, 'Coming Up', which would spawn five top-10 singles. But their fifth album, 2002 'A New Morning' album was the sound of a band unsure of themselves.
Come 2010, they’re once again being feted by the critics following their reunion gigs – rarely has the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” been truer. I was fortunate to see them at the very intimate setting of the 100 Club earlier this year ahead of their Royal Albert Hall concert – both gigs were astonishing and they had more energy, confidence and presence than bands half their age. Their influence seems more important than ever – members of Klaxons, British Sea Power, Interpol and Arcade Fire are all fans - leading to their recent Q Inspiration award. Therefore, it seems an appropriate time for them to be releasing a “best of” collection.
'The Best Of' presents a complete picture of the band, with the first CD collating all the band’s singles except 'Positivity' and 'Attitude', which are not missed. Brett Anderson selected the tracks on the album, and oversaw the remastering of this collection of songs with Bernard Butler, Suede’s first guitarist. It’s significant that the overwhelming majority of the second CD of songs comes from the Anderson/Butler years. The songwriting partnership was incapable of releasing a bad song between 1992 and 1994, including their b-sides which perhaps surpass those of The Smiths.
Restricted to two CDs, the selection of songs illustrates the depth and reach of their extensive talent. I would have included 'Whipsnade', 'Picnic By The Motorway' and 'The Power' instead of 'Sleeping Pills', 'This Hollywood Life' and 'She', but Suede could easily have released a best of consisting of 4 CDs such was the quality of their songs and people would still be arguing over the selection.
So how have the songs changed? 'Saturday Night' has a lovely shimmer effect ahead of the chorus and 'Filmstar' has an extended drum intro. Unfortunately, the sleazy sax opening 'This Hollywood Life' has been lost and the haunting chant at the end of 'We Are The Pigs' has also gone. Generally, the songs have more room to breathe and the bass is more prominent, with 'The Wild Ones' and 'Pantomime Horse' particularly benefiting from the remastering. Whatever the production, the undoubted quality of the songs ultimately speak for themselves.
'The Best Of' from Suede is a timely reminder of how ridiculously brilliant and charismatic British music can be – challenging the mainstream, rather than pandering to it. With their legacy now secured, the question is now whether they will build on it with a new album.
STREAM: Suede - The Wild Ones
Purchase the two disc collection from Amazon.co.uk in CD or download format, or on import at Amazon.com.