gainst all the odds, Suede are living proof that the B Road can get you there quicker. Pop music’s AA road map marks two routes out of dead- end suburbia. Cruising the fast lane on the dual cam’ageway are the sporty chrome-gleaming likes of Take That, following the path of upbeat 80$ Bushey boys Wham in celebrating the slick leisure-centre hedonism of the urban overspill kids. Then there’s the bohemian backstreet, full of neurotic Sunday drivers, both eyes ﬁxed on the rear-view mirror as they regularly turn into gloomy cul- de-sacs.
Suede simply pulled out, hit the accelerator
‘We want to be Spandau Ballet rather than Echo And The Bunnymen - although I’d quite like to be both.’
1993 was the year of SUEDE, but as the plaudits and awards pile up, can the group keep up the momentum? Their new single ‘Stay
Together’ suggests they can, as Tom Lappin discovers.
and left the likes of Blur, Ride and The Sundays toiling in their wake. A year and a half after the release of their pouting, provocative debut single ‘The Drowners’, Suede are sitting pretty at the top of the British pop pile sporting a rare triple crown: critical acclaim (Best Group in NME’s ‘Brats’ awards), industry approbation (the Mercury Prize for their debut album, nominations for next week’s Brits Awards), and most importantly, a large and adoring fan-base. What went right?
Suede come from and sing about the suburbs, and their constituency remains out there in the high-rises and peripheral schemes where a million sickly teenage girls gaze at their posters
of Brett, Bernard, Simon and Mat and swoon to ‘Sleeping Pills’. ‘Sure, like I’ve got a date with Brett Anderson from Suede,’ said Katie Rogers. Brookside’s plug-ugly God-botherer a few months back, speaking wistfully for a new generation of misfit adolescents who have discovered their equivalent of The Sm***s.
‘It still 'astonishes us,’ says bassist Mat Osman, ‘that level of support. If I look at the letters we get I think “Oh yes, you totally understand the kind of band we are, what we’re trying to say.“ People understand that we’re not trying to stamp on people’s faces, we’re trying to talk to them. The joy of it is the communication.’ This mutual bonding has made Suede the great white hopes of British pop, articulating a ﬂurry of secret desires and frustrations, without developing the aloofness associated with teen idols. ‘Apart from the fact that we are an open band in terms of the songs we write and the subjects we write about, we’ve never wanted to give up our accessibility. People have said “You want to bring back stars to rock, bring glamour to indie music,” but nothing can be further from our minds, we’ve no intention of becoming some sort of godhead to be adored.’
The cause of this unusual level of audience bonding is simply that, unwillingly or not, in the last year or so Suede have produced a body of work that is riddled with involving and awkwardly recognisable paeans to misunderstood youth. Osman and Anderson grew up in the relentlessly unromantic dormitory town of Haywards Heath in the culture-free belt around London, Buddha 0f Suburbia territory where every sensitive boy who can’t make the school soccer team languishes in his bedroom listening to Hunky Dory. Great American bands may sing of the emptiness of the prairies and broken-down steel towns, Great British bands sing instead of romance on the industrial estate, love in a high- rise and the bleakness of a life lived eight stops on the commuter sprinter away from civilisation.
‘We did all those things you did when you’re young,’ says Anderson, ‘visit haunted houses and get the Bostik out.’ ‘Everyone who lives there thinks of escaping,’ Osman explains. ‘I always assumed that music was the best way of doing that, but at the time things like Wham and Spandau Ballet were happening. I knew we weren’t going to be like that, they were like another race, people who looked like they were born in a night club. That’s what made it so good when bands like Echo And The Bunnymen and The Smiths came along. As much as their music, which I loved, there was the fact that you could look at those groups and say “Ah it’s one of us.”’
Suede’s music swiftly evolved into a blend of the populist and the dysfunctional, warped Ortonesque tales of straitened horizons, negativity and the constant struggle to express your personality in the face of social pressures. All this was delivered in Anderson’s tortured- vowel mannered Cockemee howl over a backdrop of sublime guitar hooks fashioned by reclusive prodigy Bernard Butler.
‘We’ve never wanted to live in a ghetto,’ says Osman, ‘to be the coolest kids on a very small block. We’ve always wanted to be a pop band. I know everyone says that but I’m not sure if they mean it. We want to be on the radio, we want
8 The List 11—24 February I994