Maybe it’s his tenacity of vision. but Anderson seems to be covering familiar lyrical ground with ‘The Beautiful Ones’. Familiar from ‘Trash’. the magniﬁcently assured single Suede used to reacquaint themselves with the upper reaches of the Top Ten last month and which celebrated a parade of outsiders, like Jarvis’s ‘Misshapes’ with a decadent streak.
‘They’re pretty much the same song.’ says an unapologetic Anderson. ‘I’ve basically written the same song with different lyrics! When I’m
writing I don’t think “this is like that song”; if
it feels good I write it. I try not to write too theoretically because those songs are written about people I know and parts of my life that generally crop up. I’ve written about the same things on the first two albums as well.’
There is a familiarity to Coming Up but hopefully not one that breeds contempt. The hard grind of ‘Filmstar’. the brash stomp of ‘Starcrazy’. the relaxed balladry of ‘Saturday Night’ and the sheer pop of ‘Lazy’ have sent people scurrying back to Sucde’s eponymous debut for comparisons. The overwrought epic drama and artist-in-thc-garret claustrophobia of their second album. Dog Man Star. doesn’t make a showing. Coming Up is in altogether more relaxed. sociable mood. The cover even features three of Brett’s ‘beautiful ones’ frolicking on a mattress while Dog Man Star had one tortured soul face down in a dimly- lit bedroom. It is entirely the product of a band taking the time to rediscover thejoys of playing together.
‘That’s the good thing about being in a band three albums into their career,’ he says. ‘It means you get a lot of studio time and a lot of leeway to piss about. When you’re doing your first couple of singles, you’ve just got to knock it out because you’ve got about ten pence to make it.
‘The whole songwriting thing was really fun on this album. There weren’t really any rules on this record about how the songs should be written. Me and Mat even wrote a B—side together and that’s never happened before and I’ve known Mat for nearly ten years. It was like a free-for-all. We’d be like this workshop, people just coming up with stuff and not being too precious about it because I think one criticism that I’d apply to Suede is that we’ve been quite precious about stuff. especially in the early days, things done in a very regimental way.’
Ah, ‘the early days’. the past. Two years ago when Bernard Butler walked out on Suede/was shown the door — like many great artistic rifts no one really knows who chucked who — it marked one of the most acrimonious splits of our times, making Noel and Liam’s spat-and-make-up antics look like a playground tussle. The creative death of the media golden boys was widely predicted, particularly on delivery of the awesome Dog Man Star. an album rightly acclaimed as a musical milestone. With the dissolution of the mercurial songwriting partnership which created such a sophisticated piece of work, surely both factions would suffer? Butler, without doubt one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, would be another Johnny Marr without his Morrissey and the prospect of the audacious Britpop vanguard act as a pale cabaret imitation of their former selves just like that Mancunian dervish didn’t bear thinking about.
Butler briefly found success with David McAlmont and the celebratory single ‘Yes’, but so far has been disinclined to share his single- minded approach with anyone else on a steady
basis. He seems destined like Marr before him never to recapture his initial glories to the same extent.
He has remained notoriously private and tight-lipped about the whole affair. apart from one damburst of a diatribe on nocturnal television music show The Beat. Anderson has had time to consider his view of events and cannin hasn’t been drawn into character assassination. Media impressions suggest the opposite. as if Butler is now a non-person in the eyes of the Suede camp.
‘I haven’t erased him.‘ protests Anderson. ‘People have said I’ve got this really Orwellian approach to him. but we’re so excited about the new material. we don’t dwell on it. My
‘We’re quite sensual about music. We do stuff because the vibe’s right. It feels really natural now.’
opinion is that I’ve got the greatest respect for the songs we wrote together on the first two albums. When we do our tour we will be playing stuff like ‘The Wild Ones’ and ‘Animal Nitratc‘. They just don’t lose it for me. Yeah. I wrote them with Bernard but they’re also part of me.’
Butler’s replacement. a seventeen-year-old Suede fan called Richard Oakes. caused more than a few raised eyebrows and patronising remarks. but his integration to an already tight and self-aware unit has appeared painless and now we are hearing the first songwriting fruits.
‘At first it was pretty difficult because I’ve been writing with Bernard for years.’ says Anderson. ‘You get on the same wavelength and
you can second-guess what each other’s going to do. You feel the melodies on top when someone writes a chord sequence and you cart almost feel what they’re trying to say with the music. Writing with someone new. getting on their wavelength is quite difficult at first but once you’ve established that it’s just really exciting because it’s fresh. it's like turning over a new page or having a new relationship.'
In true cocksure Suede fashion. they decided that while it was all change in the personnel department why not slip in another new member while no one’s looking? Enter keyboard player Neil Codling. whose Bowiesque synth refrain helps define ‘Trash’ and whose cheekbones are already causing enough of a stir to merit a separate fan club. Piano was always an important part of Suede in the Butler days. bttt keyboards are a newish element to exploit.
‘It does feel like the missing piece of the jigsaw actually. With us as a four-piece it did seem like there was something missing for a while and we did go through a few months where I was a bit despondent about the band. racking my brains. trying to get the chemistry right. and Neil does seem to fit thejigsaw really nicely. It’s like having another colour to paint with that you‘ve never had before.
‘We’re quite sensual about music,’ he concludes. ‘We do stuff because the vibe’s right. It feels really natural now.’
You‘ve been warned: prepare for big time sensuality. Suede-style.
Suede play Burrow/and, Glasgow on Tue 1. Coming Up is out now.
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 1996 1