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I have always been surprised at the lack of commercial success which Suede have had. For me they were one of the best bands of the 1990's mixing excellent musicianship with some reasonably good songwriting. Add to this Brett Anderson's vocal style and presence and they should have dominated the charts. The problem for Suede has been that they were kept in the shadows by the Oasis/Blur media dominance though I felt both bands were inferior and by Pulp who had everything Suede had perhaps with more humour and quirkiness.
The opening track is called Trash but is far from it. It sets the tone of the remainder of the album with strong drumming of Simon Gilbert and jangling guitars of Richard Oakes ably supported by bass player Matt Osman and keyboard player Neil Codling. Of course more than anything Suede are defined by Brett Andersons vocals even if he sometimes seems to strain a bit too high. This is followed by Filmstar which is a superb track showing the strengths when Oakes and Anderson move around each other within the song. There is a contrast there with the way Morrissey and Johnny Marr worked as a duo within The Smiths. The keyboard rolls around the crooned chorus and it was a worthy single.
Lazy follows and in it Anderson gives vent to the frustrations of modern life as he sees it. In tone it sounds like a Diamond Dogs era Bowie track with a singalong chorus
Track 4 is By The Sea a slower acoustic feeling atmospheric track with Anderson quietly blending over the rolling keyboard and piano backing. The track does steadily build with the drums and guitar becoming more prevalent. She like many Suede songs is an anthem to an unnamed lady. So many times in their lyrics a mysterious 'she' appears and in this case its another view of hopelessness and lack of a future. She is not the strongest track on the album in my view because the throbbing drum and guitar is just too overpowering for the good of the song.
The stand-out track is surely The Beautiful Ones which is superbly constructed and features Anderson's delivery building to a superb chorus and singalong ending. If you can ignore Andersons vocals during a listening though there is Richard Oakes subtle guitar playing underneath which is a gem in itself. If Anderson occasionally sounds a little like David Bowie then surely Oakes is his Mick Ronson. Beautiful Ones is at the same time beautiful and bitter sounding off against the hedonism of the age. In many ways though the subject matter goes over the same ground as Lazy and She.
Starcrazy follows as a mid-tempo track with wailing Oakes guitar and high-pitch Anderson delivery. The interesting Picnic By The Motorway sounds like a hybrid of Bowies Space Oddity and Babylon Zoos Spaceman with a quiet opening on acoustic guitar. The Chemistry Between Us is a slow number with the lyrics providing an anthem to youth assuming youth in this context means shared drug experience. This track works better musically than it does lyrically. The album closes with Saturday Night with the vocals playing over the light beat formed by neatly understated guitar and drum accompaniment.
If there has to be a criticism of this album it has to be the sameyness of the mood of the tracks and occasionally clumsy lyrics. There is on this album a lack of breadth within the music as Suede seem to play as a trio with the keyboard and bass too buried to be relevant. More work in production and mixing might have elevated the work onto a more commercial plane without compromising the quality of the songs. Overall though a good album and worthy of a place in your collection.
When the story of British music in the nineties is discussed it tends to focus on the Britpop movement and concentrate on Blur and Oasis. The two groups had an intense rivalry and are both generally regarded as major forces in the resurgence of British guitar music after the early nineties 'grunge' explosion. Both put out catchy tunes and were, in their different ways, very British. In reality neither Blur or Oasis invented Britpop. Suede beat both of them to it.
In 1993 Suede's debut Album was a resounding hit and scooped numerous prizes. In Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, Suede had the most formidable songwriting partnership in British music since Johnny Marr stopped talking to Morrissey. Anderson,(more Marc Bolan than Kurt Cobain and it's probably fair to say; an aquired taste) with his distinctly English vocals and sexually ambiguous lyrics, had found the perfect foil in Butler, widely regarded as the best guitarist since Johnny Marr (or John Squire if you are a big Stone Roses fan). Suede put out B-sides (The Living Dead, My Insatiable One) that were better than other band's singles and seemed unstoppable.
Suede's second Album, the grandly titled Dog Man Star, was an ambitious and bold attempt to make the definitive British Album of the nineties and establish Suede as the new Smiths. Behind the scenes however a storm was brewing. Butler had become increasingly estranged from his bandmates and as recording of the second Album neared its end he picked up his guitars, walked out of the studio and never returned. Imagine The Smiths if Johnny Marr had left after the second Album. That was the disaster that Suede faced.
Suede looked for a new guitarist and settled on 17 year-old schoolboy Richard Oakes. The music press chuckled at the mere thought of Oakes stepping into Butler's shoes. To make matters worse, Suede had to tour Dog Man Star with Oakes playing an entire set of Butler songs. It was as if Suede had become some bizarre tribute band to themselves. They were more or less written off, especially now that a new wave of bands led by Oasis, Blur and Pulp were stealing the limelight.
What Suede had to do was put out a great third Album and go on tour again with a setlist of new songs that had nothing to do with Butler. 1996's Coming Up Album was the acid test. The first band I ever saw live was Suede on the Coming Up tour so I've always had a soft-spot for them. I thought I'd dig out my copy of Coming Up and see if it still holds up.
Coming Up by Suede
The first thing that strikes you about Coming Up is the fantastic cover art by Peter Saville. It's garish (yellow), slightly cheap looking and absolutely spot-on. I love it. The glam/trash/retro/low-rent glitter sound of Suede is perfectly captured by an Album cover that is almost indescribable.
Trash - Suede's 9th single and the first single off the Album. I listened to this a gazillion times when it was released. It reminds me of The Smiths 'Hand In Glove' and Suede's earlier 'The Drowners'. It's clear that the gloomy melodrama of Dog Man Star has given way to a more precise and simple pop/glam sound. Was this deliberate or simply pragmatic? A bit of both I think but Trash is still a catchy and monumental comeback single that sounds terrific even today.
Filmstar - Another precise pop song that doesn't overstay its welcome. Anderson never made any secret of David Bowie's influence on Suede and its never been quite so apparent. Oakes' guitars are heavier on this one which celebrates sixties actors like Terrence Stamp. This is a typical slice of Suede mark II glam/pop fun. 7/10
Lazy - Slightly reminicscent of the Scooby-Doo theme tune (!), Lazy is a chorus friendly and simple pop song although it does come slightly close to self-parody. Oddly enough the three most glam songs open the Album. Lazy (like By The Sea) was a solo Anderson composition and an indication that he had taken more of the songwriting on his shoulders since Butler left. 7/10
By The Sea - The best song on the Album, By The Sea is a slow Suede weepie in the best tradition of The Next Life from their debut Album. Anderson works around a melancholic piano tune and brings the song to a beautiful climax. This is the sort of stuff that Suede did best and it was heartening to see that they could still write beautiful songs like this without Butler. I find Anderson's obsession with lonely, down at heel seaside towns very English and oddly poignant. 10/10
She - A stomper with John Barry style strings. She opened the Coming Up tour set when I saw them in concert and was a real rabble rouser live. It loses a bit as a recording but it's still a pretty good song. 7/10
Beautiful Ones - More energetic pop-filled fun. Another melodic and annoyingly catchy pop song. 9/10
Starcrazy - Probably the weakest song on the Album. More aggressive than the other songs but the glam vocals don't have a strong chorus or melody to work with. This song was co-written by Neil Codling rather than Oakes and while it sounds a bit different from the rest of the Album it doesn't quite hit the mark. 6/10
Picnic By The Motorway - Another classic weepie. Only Suede could have written a mournful song about a picnic by a motorway with petrol fumes and made it sound so romantic! Reminds me a bit of Pantomime Horse from the first Suede Album. 9/10
The Chemistry Between Us - The one song on the Album that reminds one of the previous incarnation of Suede in its scope and boldness. It doesn't quite work but its a brave effort. 8/10
Saturday Night - A simple ballad ends the Album. Sounds a bit like Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight song given a Suede makeover. 7/10
Overall Coming Up is a terrific Album that stuck two-fingers up to those who had written Suede off. It went to number one in the charts and produced five top ten singles. I love it to death although, as I said before, Anderson's vocals are not to everyone's taste. I like the fact that rather than be generic he was genuinely distinctive. Some love his vocals and some find them somewhat grating!
I played Coming Up to death when it was first released and I'm happy to say it's still great fun today. The album is much more Radio friendly than the other Suede Albums and one you can stick in your walkman for a while without getting bored. Most of the songs are short and very poppy with a catchy chorus and melody. Brett Anderson said the intention was to produce a pop record you could brush your hair to as you got ready to go out on a saturday night. With Coming Up Suede made good on that promise.
Save them a table in Britpop heaven. They deserve it.
Album title: COMING UP
Release date: September 2, 1996
Produced by Ed Buller
By the Sea
Picnic by the Motorway
The Chemistry Between Us
Singing Brett anderson
Guitar Richard Oakes
Bass Matt Osman
Keyboards Neil Codling
Drums Simon Gilbert
If there was ever a word to describe this record it would be “shiny”. Suede plays pop if you like. In fact, it’s so polished you can see your face in it (and not just the CD either as that applies to all CDs). If you have listened to the first tow Suede albums, Suede and Dog Man Star, you’ll know that they where quite dark affairs, with plenty of dark, brooding, menacing songs. This is not the case with this one however – for the most part we have some really great songs that have their foot heavily into the pop side of the barrier. This record was released in 1996, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but it’s approaching five years ago now. It’s the first Suede album recorded under the line-up – guitarist Richard Oakes and keyboard player Neil Codling. It is mainly the addition of Richard Oakes that manufactured the new Suede sound – him and Brett Anderson found themselves working on the songs together, rather than Brett coming up with words, and passing them on to Bernard Butler or vice versa. And the fact that Brett and Richardson actually liked each other was also a factor in the new “optimistic sound”. I was still in fifth form when this came out. Suede where the first real band I had ever got into – I got Dog Man Star for Christmas a few years back and I had been waiting with bated breath for some new material. So, as was my style then, it was a rush into town after school on the Monday it was released, then a rush to avoid missing the bus to get home so I could listen to it as soon as possible. (It’s what I still do – only now I have an excuse to skip a lecture or two to go into town to get it). I already new what to expect – “Trash” had come out a few weeks before hand and while the new direction was a little surprise, I wouldn’t say it was an unpleasant one. Britpop was all the rage back then – shiny guitar and plenty of st
rings, and this record has both, as well as songs that hark back to Suede’s older days – starker, one’s that basically “rock the socks off you”. I have been listening to this album a lot recently, I don’t know why really. It has happily adorned my shelf without being touched for a year or more, and I just fancied a change form everything I’m listening to at the moment, and when I put this on, it just sounds so fresh compared to what I’m listening to now – it’s uplifting, sounds happy and positive and it’s more or less lodged in my CD player at the minute. TRASH The opening track, like I mentioned before, was the first single to be lifted off the album, and it let everyone know that this incarnation of Suede was different to the old Suede – it could write a pretty nifty pop song. Opening with two really polished guitars and a great drumbeat, the drums carry the song and drive the song throughout, then the vocals come in and they’re slightly distorted. The keyboard doesn’t come in until the chorus and it lifts the whole song, along with Brett Anderson’s ability to carry the high notes. The whole song moves along quite quickly, carried by that drumbeat and the song is a great opener to the album. Lyrically, it’s a love song, with their love being compared to all the cheap and tacky things in their lives. Being trash, living in dead end towns, and similar feelings are recurring themes in Suede songs. FILMSTAR Out go the strings and shiny, in comes the distorted guitar and vocals for a more stomping rock number, although it isn’t as sombre as any of Suede’s rocky numbers from their previous albums. The polished sound comes back in the chorus, when the sound becomes a lot less mucky and distorted and they keyboard cleans the sound up a lot. This is the first song on the album to make use of those trademark “Oooo” backi
ng vocals, which suit the song really well, as does the way it lurches between the chorus and the verse, the way the sound of the two contrast each other. This makes up for the lyrical content of the song somewhat – there are a few dodgy rhymes and in places it tries to hard to make a rhyme and ends up sounding a bit silly. This one is about a Filmstar (really? I wouldn’t have guessed) and it describes his life – fast cars, drinking at the bar and how it all appears so easy, but the filmstar’s view of life has been so altered by it all that he no longer knows what to believe. This song is worth it for the sound alone, but don’t pay much attention to the lyrics. LAZY A return to the polished tunes. This one is about living in a council estate, and the lives and loves of the people who live there. The sound is quite summery, quite shimmery, the whole song overall has a kind of laid-back and relaxed feel, as indicated by the title. The guitar plays a relaxed riff, there is a simple few chords coming from the keyboard and again the vocals have been slightly distorted to give that kind of detached feel. BY THE SEA This is one of the really powerful tunes on the album. It is possibly my favourite track on the album, although I couldn’t really put my finger on the reason for it. It’s so slow and beautiful, it opens with just a piano and a really quiet guitar playing notes that seem to be held forever, and the vocals are slightly subdued. For the second verse, the drums start, though they are played softly, and the piano takes a brighter sound, and the guitar takes more precedence. It’s a song about hope, and about starting a new life, and the progression from the subdued start to the more uplifting second half of the song marks this really well. It ends really slowly with a slight false ending, which was marked at concerts by the crowd cheering… then Brett telling us, tongue firmly in cheek
8220;Do you mind? I’m trying to finish my song”! SHE This song is another stomping rock track. It’s all about a very powerful woman, who knows what she wants and will do whatever she wants to get it. The whole sound of the song really suits the subject of the song – it does not walk, it struts along. It’s the most aggressive track on the album, full of spite and bad attitude. It opens with a heavy drumbeat and then a heavy guitar comes in, with more “ooo-ooo-ooo” coming in the backing vocals. It stutters its way through the chorus, before banging it’s way into the chorus, knocking you out of the way in it’s urgency to get there. It’s at it’s best when you turn the volume up as far as it will go; it’s one of the highlights of the album. BEAUTIFUL ONES Beautiful ones opens with a super guitar riff that is repeated most of the way through the song. The drums mainly drive the song, and in the verse it is mainly the vocals over the drums, before the riff starts to come in again. The verse lifts the song again, the keyboards coming in to take the sound up a level. The song takes us back to the whole “pop” thing the band are exploring on the album, and the song fades out in a chorus of “la las” which if you ask me, goes on for a bit to long and gets a little dull after a while. The song is about the “Beautiful Ones” (Suede going for the blindingly obvious title again), the people who are cool, and with the in crowd, what they do and the places they go. STARCRAZY This song has one of the best openings I’ve heard in a song. It’s fast, just a drumbeat, a great riff, and an “Alright?” and we’re into another stomping track, another rocky number that seems to soar away a little as well. It follows the established pattern of this album, to bring the keyboards in on the chorus to lift the song somewhat, bef
ore heading back into the heavier verse. It’s all over quite quickly, but again, it’s another outstanding track, but then again they all are on this album. It seems to be about a girl that has lost control of her life a little and is rebelling against everything. Turn your volume right up again for this one. PICNIC BY THE MOTORWAY This one goes for the more subdued, detached approach; the whole song is quiet and dreamy. The song itself is dreamy; it’s about thinking about the person you want to be with, what they’ll do and where they’ll go. It holds a car theme throughout, about taking their car to the nature reserve just off the motorway, and crashes on the radio – cars are another recurring theme in Suede songs – see Daddy’s Speeding on Dog Man Star. The whole song is a slow laboured affair, that doesn’t really lift until the end of the song when the strings are really allowed into the song. The drumbeat on this song is strange, stuttering it’s way through the song giving it a strange stop-start sound. THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN US This goes back to the whole pop theme, and this song weighs in at just over seven minutes long. It’s another one of my favourites on the album, and it’s another optimistic song, about the love between to people and wondering what holds them together and marks them different from all the people around them. The song is sedate, with a beautiful string sound going on in the background to lift the whole song, and the vocals constantly hit the high sound to maintain the light, happy feeling. SATURDAY NIGHT This song closes the album on a great note. It’s a slow ballad; about doing whatever the person you love wants at the weekend to make her happy. It uses the image of a woman tired at work to move the song, with slow dreamy guitar, keyboard and vocals to keep the dreamlike mood going. The way the song moves along so slowly and so
mbrely is really beautiful, and it is clear that he really loves this woman – after all her is prepared to do anything for her. It’s a perfect close to a really good album. This album is well worth your money if you’re into any sort of guitar music at all. Fans of Blur, the Bluetones and bands similar to those will find themselves immediately at home with this album. It’s uplifting, it rocks, and it’s thought provoking all at the same time. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact that Suede released five singles off it (that’s half the album) – Trash, Filmstar, Lazy, Beautiful Ones and Saturday Night. They all did well, which shows you the quality of the tracks, but five singles off one album is taking things too far. This album is constantly in the sales and on offer in the likes of HMV and Virgin Megastore and if you see it I would advise you to pick it up, as I would advise you to get any of Suede’s albums, as they are all wonderful.
It looked like the end for Brett and the boys when guitar king Bernard Butler walked out on them after recording Dog Man Star after a reputed dispute with the band's producer Ed Buller, However, Suede picked up a new guitarist- Richard Oakes and, for the first time, a keyboardist by the name of Neil Codling, a new line up and a new lease of life for the London band. The sound of "Coming up" is still very Suede, but very different at the same time, don't expect the theatrical vibe of Dog Man Star, instead be prepared to hear some fantastic guitar work, excellent songs and an all round sound that shows the true professionalism of a great British band. Only Suede could lose one of their most influential members and come out with an album that is a true masterpiece, From the feel-good vibe of "Trash" and "Filmstar" to the anthemic "The chemistry between us", the album "Coming up" is a must to anyone that doesnt have it.
Suede's Coming Up album has to be one of the best they have ever produced. The album was crammed wall to wall with classic songs including the hits Trash, Film Star, and Beautiful Ones. It also had a few lesser known excellent tracks such as She, By The Sea and Saturday Night. The music now seems a little dated, as the rocky indie sound is now not so en-vogue (with everything going dancey, trancey, etc). But, if you like this kind of music then this album should be a must. It isn't that long at less than 45 minutes, but every inch is great great music.
This is definately Suede's most popular album, containing 5 singles which made it into the UK top ten (Trash, Lazy, Beautiful Ones, Saturday Night and Filmstar). It is the first album to be made after the departure of Bernard Butler, and the first to feature new guitarist Richard Oakes and keyboardist Neil Codling. The sound is much more commercial than other Suede albums with all of the songs being melodic, structured and around 3 to 4 minutes long. The quality of songwriting is excellent, with both new members making contributions and the adjustment seeming not to unsettle the group at all. String arranger Craig Armstrong provides some very exciting backdrops with the John Barry-esque 'She' or the melancholy 'Chemistry between us'. The album therefore has elements of the grandeur of Dog Man Star, but it is much more restrained, with the group making a more concious effort to be a pop band. This is the same with Brett Anderson's singing which is consistently high pitched and loud, with less variety of expression than previous albums. The only disadvantage is that the lyrics can be quite repetitive with the over use of Brett's favorite words and most songs seeming to be about losers taking drugs, going out and being bored.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
4 By The Sea
6 Beautiful Ones
8 Picnic By The Motorway
9 Chemistry Between Us
10 Saturday Night