GreatAmericanbandsmaysingofthe enptinessofthepra'riesandbroken- down steel towns, great British bands
industﬁalestateJoveinahigh-riseand the bleakness of a life lived eight stops on the commuter sprinter away from
people to hear us while they’re sitting in their ofﬁce and go down HMV and buy the record. That’s vital to us. To be honest, nowadays Suede want to be Spandau Ballet rather than Echo And The Bunnymen — although I’d quite
like to be both.’
Britain succumbed to their charms readily. despite lingering doubts that much of the first album had an overt fondness for derivative 7()s nuances, and some of Anderson’s lyrics (‘you can only go so far for womankind’) hadn’t caught up with his attitude. Suede at times seemed caught between the nervy uncertainty of the provinces and the sussed swagger of the
Already there are rumblings of a backlash, with the British press cackling at Suede’s ‘failure’ to break the USA, where support band The Cranberries went down rather better. ‘Good luck to the Cranberries.‘ laughs an unperturbed Osman. ‘The record company have always known it’s going to take fucking years over there. In Britain we may sound like a pop band, but in America we sound really strange. Listen to us on American college radio and we sound completely alien. l liken it to when REM came over here. It took them seven years before people twigged they were a great pop band. It might be the same for us. but we’re not in any hurry, the record company aren’t in any hurry. It just pisses us off when people see it as us heading out there with the Union Jack in our hands to take the USA, but the point is we didn’t, we just went out there and had a great
Any qualms about Suede’s current health should be dispelled by ‘Stay Together’, the new
single. and their most powerful and affecting song to date. lt’s both an exorcism of the old Suede sound and an indication of their more measured new direction. It lasts eight minutes. ‘There’s a time- bomb in the high-rise, there’s a blue suburban dream’ croons Anderson, before launching into a subliminal rant as Butler crashes in with a four-minute guitar solo. ‘lt’s getting rid of all the bits of Suede that have been jumped upon and over-emphasised,’ says the singer, who admits to ‘thinking quite apocalyptically at the moment.’
an unquestionably brilliant
‘We want to be on the radio, we want people to hear us while
in their office and go down HMV and buy the record.’
destined to overcome even the limited pockets of Suede resistance still holding out. It speaks of a group who have come to terms with their negativity and are looking at a brighter future
than they could ever have envisaged.
‘When we started we spent a lot of time slagging off other people,’ Osman remembers. ‘But you have to do that. When you start, every record that comes on the radio isn’t yours, and you’re just furious. But once you start getting heard, it’s really liberating. People expect you
to start off as idealists at sixteen or something and become cynical old buggers by the time you’re 30. We’ve done it in reverse. When I was seventeen l was the most cynical git imaginable, a real nasty bit of work. Now I’m like an idiot skipping through the daisies because I’ve achieved everything I wanted and worked for. You can’t be cynical any more.’
The obvious hurdle is that Suede got where they are by being all bleak and harrowing (in a life-affirming kinda way). Will this new sunniness and regular hob-nobbing with the showbiz elite destroy the melancholic magic for the next album?
‘A lot of the desperation will go, and a lot of the settings of the songs will change, but at the same time we’ve learnt things it’s very difficult to learn elsewhere, and we’ve got freedom that most people never get in their lives — absolute control. The songs on the first album were mostly written when we couldn’t get arrested. when we couldn’t get a gig. We didn’t sit around thinking “oh they don’t have to be any good.” You know that to capture attention you’ve got to be good. We’ve got far greater quality control than even the people who love us realise.’
Suede have a singularly fixed idea of what they want to do. A ‘meritocratic rather than democratic’ band, Butler and Anderson write the songs because that’s what they are best at, and group discussions are settled by ‘whoever sulks the longest’. Anderson admits he gets ‘terrific strength from the group’, and there is an air of ‘us against the world’ in Suede’s refusal to be manipulated.
‘Nobody tells us what to do,’ says Osman. ‘When we’re making records there’s no one breathing down our neck at all. It’s like when
you look back at school and think how you listened to teachers, it’s unbelievable that you paid attention to these absolute idiots and old paedophiles with beards. That’s what it’s like in the band, we don’t listen to anyone else. It’s kind of arrogant, but it’s an attitude that comes out in the new songs which are a lot more self- confident, a little less edgy.’
‘lf we were going to bow to pressure we would have done it long before this. We did our “difﬁcult second album” first time around, and any pressure is from within ourselves. If you don’t test yourselves then you’re an idiot. People don’t appreciate what a joyous thing it is to be able to make a record, just the four of you together sitting in a studio making music that will be heard all over the world. So you have to set yourself the absolutely highest standards, it shouldn’t take an NME journalist saying “the second album had better be as good as the first” to make you think that.’
Suede begin recording the second album at the end of February, with an autumn release in mind. The new songs are ‘more stripped-down, not as show-offy, a bit more serpentine.’ The emphasis has moved away from the declamatory to the seductive. ‘There’s a ﬁnger-clickin’ cool to the new songs,’ says Osman, ‘with the singer being more of a hypnotist than a teacher. The idea is to make songs that don’t have to beat you around the head, which is what those first songs did have to do. They had to be all big hooks and in-your- face, these are calmer and more self-assured.’
The calmer, more self-assured Suede have crept out of their blue suburban dream to achieve greatness, the pop equivalent of having it all. ‘lt’s lived up to the fantasy,’ says Osman. ‘We always wanted to be a band that everything mattered to.’ Or Spandau Ballet. Maybe in the next life. Cl Suede play Edinburgh Queen ’s Hall on Saturday 12 February. ‘Stay Together' is released on 14 February.
The List 1 1—24 February 1994 7