The Joup Friday Album: Suede – Coming Up

Suede Coming UpThough it may seem unlikely, the arid and dusty oil town of Midland in west Texas was a hotbed for Britpop music…or at least that was the case in the bedrooms, car stereos, and headphones of my friends and me in the mid 90’s. As the once mighty grunge scene of the Pacific Northwest began to putter out, we found ourselves on a quest for a new scene, a new group of almost familial bands to nod our heads and tap our feet to. Britpop got there just in time.

My first taste of the scene came from Oasis’ debut Definitely Maybe, and then I found Blur. Blur led the charge as my favorite of the bunch, but gradually I began to get into more and more acts coming over from across the pond. (I’ve actually already written about it a little bit right here, and I encourage you to read the reaction from our own Chester Whelks in the comments section as well.) Different styles, influences, and attitudes took shape as the Britpop scene blossomed and grew. If Oasis were the working class pub crawlers, Blur the art school kids, and Pulp the elder intellectuals, then Suede were the neon-colored, pill-fueled pretty ones. In so many ways the band seemed to be singing about and to the same “pretty things” that David Bowie had been crooning about over 20 years prior. They were for the confused kids, the outcasts, and the freaks. And I guess they were for me too.

Suede (or The London Suede if you live in the states) released their third album Coming Up in 1996 to absolutely no press, no radio play, and no video air on the rapidly declining MTV. I actually didn’t discover the record (or the band for that matter) until the next year via my college roommate’s adoration of the song “Beautiful Ones,” a piece of pop perfection in under four minutes. It played on repeat in our dorm room for the better part of a semester. I became a pretty fervent fan from that point on.

The album is the first without original lead guitarist Bernard Butler, and while that departure was unfortunate, without him, and with the addition of new guitarist, the then 17-year old Richard Oakes, the band crafted what I believe is the strongest album in their entire catalog. Coming Up at its core is a simple pop record. But it’s a pop record that merges Britpop and glam rock seamlessly, perfectly encapsulating the era in which it was released, a rock album for the ravers. Producer Ed Buller puts the high end up front and center, and paired with the reverb and wide tonal range of lead singer Brett Anderson’s voice, it creates an almost otherworldly effect, like huffing gasoline fumes. Sexually ambiguous lyrics about young working class lovers, drugs, vapid, celebrity-obsessed culture, and the oft aimless and wandering youth keep the album grounded for the most part, but the underlying optimism and inescapable pure pop bliss of it all demands to lift off. Just listen to album opener “Trash” to get the gist of it. And then listen to the rest of the album. And then maybe listen to it again.

It’s that good.

As music scenes are wont to do, Britpop eventually stalled and subsided, and nothing has ever really surfaced to take its place since. Fads and fringes come and go, but I can’t think of any other scene in the last 20 years that has had the kind of musical and cultural significance or inspired that same kind of rampant fervor that Britpop did, or that the grunge scene did before it. Maybe the post-punk revival of the early 2000’s, but probably not. I don’t believe it likely that we’ll ever get anything like it again. And that makes me a little sad. But us aging fans will forever have it in the recesses of our memories.

You owe it to yourself and others to buy this record. It’s even been reissued with loads of extra tracks. Shake your bits to the hits and go get it!

 

Joe Grez, if you will please impart some musical knowledge on us…

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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