Thursday, November 8, 2007

Looking Back

Coming Up

Lead Guitarist and co-founding Suede member Bernard Butler left the band midway through the recording of their sophomore effort, Dog Man Star. By all rights, this should have been the end of the band. At the time, I thought it not unlike the Smiths without Johnny Marr. (Speaking of whom, am I the only one who still thinks it’s strange that he’s with Modest Mouse now?). Butler’s ability to craft driving rhythms with hook-laden fills and dynamic solos was the perfect match for singer Brett Anderson’s haunting, thin voice. Replacing him with a mere teenager was not a good sign for the upcoming Coming Up.
Instead of a disaster, however, the resulting album stands as one of Suede’s finest. Richard Oakes infused an energy which was lacking in their previous releases. Amazingly, however, the band maintained the dark tone of its lyrics. The resulting mix is a wonderfully pleasant and unique sound. The mixing of this album featured Oakes’ guitar work and diminished the role of the bass guitar, yet somehow the final product has quite a full sound. The opening track, Trash, establishes the tone of the album right away with lyrics such as "We're Trash, you and me/we're the lovers in the streets/ we're the litter on the breeze". Like much of Suede’s work, a picture of a seedy and dark world of the London club scene is presented. The album goes elaborates on this scene with tracks like The Beautiful Ones, with lines like “high on diesel and gasoline/ psycho for drum machine/ shaking their bits to the hits”. Through it all, Richard Oakes’ riffing dominates the sound, showing that the band would indeed survive and thrive after the departure of Butler.
Suede’s Coming Up spends most of its time describing a world I am wholly unfamiliar with, and have grown no more familiar with over the decade following its release. Listening to it now, however, I find the album has lost none of its luster and remains an enjoyable experience.

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