a new 'head music'

A friend and I have an e-mail conversation that has been going on for years that covers any number of pop music topics at any given time. Sometimes we'll dive deep into a given artist - it may or may not have started about tracking down promo-only Sugababes mixes, I can't recall - and sometimes it will touch many artists at a time.

In any case, Suede came up [again] recently and we were discussing their career showcase at the ICA back in 2003. For those who don't know, the short version is leading up to the release of the 'Singles' album, the band played five nights at the ICA in London with each night dedicated to one of their five albums. The first three nights they did 'Suede', 'Dog Man Star' and 'Coming Up' respectively from front to back for the main set plus an encore of period b-sides, fan favorites and new single "Attitude". For nights four and five, they did 'Head Music' and 'A New Morning' in their entirety but changed the running order for the gig. Despite having bootlegs of varying quality of the shows since they first appeared, I've never really given them a good listen. [The 'A New Morning' night in particular is of terrible quality...and it doesn't sound that great either.] Anyways, in the discussion it was suggested that listening to the albums in their "ICA configurations", if you will, paints an entirely different picture of the two oft-maligned albums.

First, I'll say that 'Head Music' is without a doubt my favorite Suede album - I know, I know. The idea intrigued me, though - I recall reading a review at the time how the band took the stage for "Hi-Fi" at the beginning of the 'Head Music' night all Kraftwerk-like and blew everyone's mind. So I was game.

First off, to play along at home you need the following playlist:
"Head Music"
"Savoir Faire"
"Can't Get Enough"
"Elephant Man"
"He's Gone"
"Indian Strings"
"Everything Will Flow"
"Crack In The Union Jack"
"She's In Fashion"

Having given the album a listen this way twice, I would only make one change and that would be to flip-flop the positions of "Electricity" and "Elephant Man". Other than that, though, you get a very different picture of a misunderstood and - let's be honest - not fully realized album.

With "Hi-Fi" in the starting position, you get a very different idea of the album in your head from the get go. The first half becomes a very nasty electro-monster before roughing things up a bit with the endearingly goofy "Elephant Man" and then the now side-a ending thrill of "Electricity". [I don't care what anyone says, I still find the track fantastically exciting ten years on.] Side-b, on the other hand, is incredibly heavy and hopelessly gorgeous with a string of increasingly sad and lovely songs before ending with the ray of sunshine that is "She's In Fashion". It ends up sounding more like a bonus track than part of the album, much like "Honey" on 'New Amerykah Part 1', but somehow it works that way.

The exercise does serve to remind that an album can be more than the sum of its parts and that track order can make all the difference in the world. I do think it might even change your mind about the album if you weren't a fan to begin with.

Unfortunately, it also makes the last decade of Suede-related nonsense even more disappointing. *sigh*

I suppose I should give 'A New Morning' an "ICA" listen. Maybe it will change my mind...

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