love the way you love

A question has been on my mind lately: why am I so excited for these Suede reissues? Since we don't have any of them to listen to yet, shall we examine this?

I have a complicated history with Suede. Initially I was not a fan. At all. Somewhere around 1993/1994, I was casually introduced to them by hearing "Animal Nitrate" and "The Wild Ones" on the radio - obviously the latter in 1994 as it hadn't been released in 1993, but I imagine I must have heard "Animal Nitrate" before then when I moved and was introduced to the wonderful world of alternative radio - and I was not impressed. I totally get it - they were all high drama and sweeping epics and theatrics and I, in my American guitar band interests, wanted none of it.

(Side note: you'd never know it now, but I was not a fan of the whole British guitar band/BritPop scene until long after the ship has sailed. Through friends and a better-than-average local radio station I was aware of it, but most of it passed by my radar with little interest. Those that I did latch on to - Radiohead with "Creep" and Catherine Wheel with "Crank" and, later, "Waydown" come to mind - were basically trying to be American bands anyways, so there you have it. It wasn't until the late 90's when everything had collapsed in on itself and bands were doing all they could to NOT sound like their previous selves that I went backwards into their discographies after becoming a fan of the album that lost them all their fans. Or something like that. Anyways, I didn't want some tart prancing around wailing about gay sex on poppers or whatever in 1993.)


I don't think I ever heard a note of 'Coming Up' while it was current. Probably for the best at the time, for what it's worth.

Then, somehow, I heard "Electricity" and, for whatever reason, it clicked. Hard. To this day, I still get a thrill when the song starts - on a recent trip to a Long Beach, California lesbian bar (I suppose the trip wasn't specifically to go to this bar but in our travels we ended up there), I got more excited than probably necessary when I was able to put $1 in the jukebox and blast "Electricity" louder than I had ever heard it before. It was a-mazing.

Again, sidetracked. I guess I heard it because I had recently become reacquainted with a primary school friend who had grown into a massive Suede fan and she made me listen to it. Anyways, the - ahem - power of the song overtook me and I fell in love with it. 'Head Music' followed and while it was - and is still - a bit of a mess, I liked it well enough and it was time to investigate the back catalog.

(Another side note: I first started talking to my friend Jason in Toronto on a mailing list as we discussed the merits - or lack thereof - of 'Head Music'. I was invited to his wedding last year. So say what you will about the album, it brings people together in its own way.)

Right, so the back catalog. As I went through it - the albums and plethora of singles, of course, if you're going to do it do it right - I was quickly able to see why I wouldn't have been into it the first time around and also how it would appeal to me then. However, I was still missing something - it didn't feel important enough, I suppose. All these people were telling me how 'Suede' changed their lives or how 'Dog Man Star' was the most amazing epic piece of music evar, but I just didn't get it. Sure, there were some brilliant songs scattered throughout the three previous albums and its singles, but I didn't feel the love. I chalked it up to "not being there at the time", but that doesn't sit well with me today - you can still find stories of a teenager today hearing 'Dog Man Star' for the first time plenty of years after its initial release and being blown away. I put it on and hear, mostly, a band trying too hard, but we'll get to that.

Anyways, so why are we here? This is why, I think: when Suede are at their best, they are pretty much the best. For me, their best is when they embrace what they truly are - a big, dumb pop band writing songs about gay sex on poppers (yes, I know) and rhyming "car" with "star" and "house" with "mouse" and "leotard" with "retard" (my personal favorite) and wanting to be lazy and all that. When they try to be more - THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. BAND. EVER! or, later, the most boring band ever - it sounds so forced to me and I can't take it seriously. I have good friends who can go on for hours about the majesty of the final four-song sequence of 'Dog Man Star' - oh, and we have, possibly with a little help from our friend vodka - but when it's on I can't help but hear how ridiculous and pompously overblown the whole thing is and I can't even deal.

So, here's the summary: as far as I'm concerned, Suede made one perfect album, a solid-if-too-long-for-its-own-good attempt at a rebirth album, a decent album that could have been a killer album with a different sequencing, an overblown mess that I have little to no time for (though it still has a few stunning moments), and one of the most boring albums ever. Perhaps, as has been shown can happen, the reevaluation these reissues will bring will further develop my opinion - I'm really curious if there's anything in 'A New Morning' to save it and will approach with as open a mind I can.

I will say that I have gained a new respect for Brett Anderson through all of this - he has emerged as Suede's biggest fan and, more importantly, is not looking at everything through rose-colored glasses. There was the risk of getting to the messier end of the discography and being force-fed the "well, this is what we were trying to do and obviously people just didn't get it" crap, but instead we got "we probably shouldn't have made this record but I can see why we did at the time". Well played, sir. The business end of things is forcing you to cater to overwhelming fan want at times - dedicating concerts to only the first three albums, for example - and compromise had to be struck to get the 'Dog Man Star' set together - "Asda Town" and the two "New Generation" b-sides being relegated to the 'Coming Up' set where they do. not. belong. at. all. I. don't. care. what. you. say. - but, as a whole, this reissue series and Suede rebirth has been pretty respectful.

For, you know, a band that I kind of don't care about. That's the power of Suede, I suppose - you love them even when you hate them.


and we're off!

Dear Customer,

Greetings from Amazon.co.uk

We are writing to let you know that the following item has been sent

James C Freeman

using Royal Mail.

For more information about delivery estimates and any open orders, please visit:


Your order #xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx (received March 09, 2011)

Qty Item Price Delivery Subtotal
Amazon.co.uk items (Sold by Amazon EU S.a.r.L.):

1 Suede: +DVD £8.28 1 £8.28

Dispatched via Royal Mail (estimated arrival date: June 21, 2011).
Item Subtotal: £8.28
Delivery and handling: £3.08
Pre-order Guarantee: £0.00

Total: £11.36

First of all, that works out to about $18.75 a set - they could have easily charged double that and we still would have lined up.

Second of all, I'm already watching the mailbox.

Third of all, I realize the font in the logo isn't the proper Suede font for the first four albums but I couldn't find it. So I cheated and went with the "Attitude" and 'Singles' font - which, in a way, conceptually brings together Suede old and new. Or something like that.


funny how time flies

These albums are all ten years old this summer:

Ash - Free All AngelsBjörk - VespertineDaft Punk - DiscoveryElbow - Asleep In The BackSuper Furry Anials - Rings Around the World

I remember my first listen to all of them like it was yesterday. Where does the time go?

This also turns ten this year:

Destiny's Child - Survivor

For me, it was one of the last times a mainstream US pop album was in on the joke: the right mix of globe crushing success, killer pop songs and a wink to let you know that they knew what was going on. (Christina Aguilera's 'Stripped' the following year upped the ante even further, but since then?) They've been chasing it ever since with little to no success.

Happy birthday.


2011, I hate you and you're bringing me down

So, here we are: a few days left of the fifth month of 2011. Generally one would do a half-year round up after the year was half-over, but there's something special planned for June and nothing on the release calendar we haven't already heard so we might as well get this over.

The new music brought to us so far this year has been - to be polite - less than spectacular. With one notable exception - I bet you can guess what it is - every album I've bought this year has at best left me with a feeling of "is that all?", at worst the realization that it's time to check out of a long-followed career.

So where to begin?

Fuck you, Polly Jean Harvey. As discussed with a friend, we already have one Joanna Newsom and she's fucking awful, we didn't need another. That's over simplifying, obviously, but what the hell? I was willing to give you one album of dressing in a Victorian-style wedding dress singing like a child while playing an instrument you hardly knew what to do with, a second album of similar nonsense is just testing patience now. (That's what those unlistenable John Parish collaboration albums are for, right?) That 'Let England Shake' is earning the best reviews of a career full of (admittedly at times) blind admiration is just more infuriating, and I can't even talk about the crushing disappointment of the live show yet. (How, I ask, does one make "The Sky Lit Up" so. fucking. dull?) We're officially broken up.

Elbow, you're also on my shit list, but we've talked about that before. Don't play it so safe next time and everything will be alright. (Unless, of course, it's not.) We're not over - not by a long shot, I hope - but we've certainly had our first big fight.

The Kills - THE KILLS! - what happened? Thanks for nothing, Jack White. 'Midnight Boom' was obviously was going to be a tough act to follow, but applying what you learned from your time in the Dead Weather was not the right way to go, Allison. A couple of great moments shine through: "Future Starts Slow" starts things off on a promising note and the one/two punch of "Heart Is A Beating Drum" and "Nail In My Coffin" pick things back up after the snorefest of "Satellite" - wrong lead single alert! - but after that it's a slow slide into mediocrity. Shame. (Apparently the live show is still shit hot so I'll have to see about that.)

The Gruff Rhys record has grown on me for what it is - a mid-tempo rehash of ideas explored throughout the SFA records - and it is still perfectly listenable in its own right. More a gentle reminder from Gruff that "yes, I can still do this" after the disaster of 'Dark Days/Light Years' than a classic in its own right, I'll take it for now. (That said, I really wish the - er - phantom of 'Phantom Power' would stop hanging over every single SFA/Gruff Rhys release.)

Hunx, Hunx...the novelty was cute at first but the schtick is starting to wear. (Remember what happened to Gravy Train!!!!? Change it up a bit before it happens again.) To be fair, I've only given 'Too Young To Be In Love' a curiosity once-over but I also haven't felt terribly compelled to return to it.

R.E.M. - really? Really. Oh well.

Dear Sound of Arrows: don't fall apart yet. You'd better have more tricks up your sleeve than a fucking Tiesto remix after making us wait this long.

Which leaves us with:

Duran Duran! Yes, we've talked about this before and, yes, 'All You Need Is Now' is technically a 2010 album, but it's still a blast. So thank you for that, but enough with the £350 special editions and making us go to a zillion different retailers to buy the album multiple times to get everything. (I give the early iTunes release a pass because they were upfront about it and, frankly, it's the best version of the album as far as a listening experience goes. However, you shouldn't need a chart to keep track of what physical format has what.) Also, "Leave A Light On" is a poor, poor choice for the third single.

Boxer Rebellion! A slight step back from the masterpiece of 'Union' but still a solid effort. You're another one that needs to watch your formatting, though - hopefully you learned something from the iTunes fuck up.

There's a 3-track Kenna EP that kind of came out of nowhere and it was a welcome surprise. I'll reserve judgment until I hear more but it's looking good.

And, the winner so far...


Duh. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only album that has landed this year without a whiff of disappointment, a fully-formed debut that delivers on the promise of early material and then some. Thank you also for the lovely 7" singles with complimentary artwork with album-quality b-sides and for generally getting it right.

That said, you also really need to quit it with the formats - it seems every month since its February release there has been another version of the album with some new bonus track and/or disc - and, more importantly, STOP SHOVING THAT FUCKING LAURA CANTRELL VERSION OF "LOOK AT ME" DOWN OUR THROATS! It was terrible the first time we bought it, you can understand why we'd be bitter the third time. In fact, once you've put a track or mix out on something, please try your best to not make us buy it four more times. (How many copies of the Belbury Poly Remix of "Lights and Offerings" does one really need?) I still love you but it's starting to get a bit annoying. Please and thank you.

Also, US tour?

Advance alert: the Battles record is a grower but ultimately pretty great.


poor 'Reproduction'

Let's talk for a minute about the current remastering craze. We've talked in the past about good remasters - last year's sprucing up of a-ha's 'Hunting High And Low' by Rhino - and inexcusably bad remasters - EMI's massacring of the Duran Duran catalog, also over the course of 2010. Today, though, I'd like to address a remastering of a different kind - one that is done well and a sonic improvement over any previous version, but one that is still a bit of a detriment to the overall album.

From the image, you can obviously tell that a discussion of The Human League's debut 'Reproduction' is forthcoming. So here we go:

A few years ago - I don't remember exactly when - the Virgin-held Human League catalog was given a digital once-over with a series of very nice CDs. ('Hysteria' might not have been part of it, I'm not sure.) Anyways, the remasters are one of those increasingly rare cases of a "job well done" - levels were boosted to modern times without sending everything pounding into the red, each album had a nice selection of period-bonus tracks - many previously unavailable on CD - and they all look nice on the shelf together. However, I argue - particularly in the case of 'Reproduction' - the remaster harms the total effect of the record. It's too cleaned up.

I much prefer a vinyl pressing of the album, especially the kind of poor US edition. When listening to the LP, there's a faint buzz of background noise through the whole thing, kind of like you're listening to it on an AM radio station...and it works. The album itself is dark and moody on old, out of date equipment and has a bit of a science-fiction feel running through the lyrics. Or, at times, they're totally deconstructing the idea of a pop song at the time by stretching out "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" to a 9+ minute slow-as-molasses dirge - which, by the way, is one of the greatest cover versions of all time - and it all benefits from a nice hum. Especially with all of the muffled discussion samples doing on between tracks, it just works. Similar to Kraftwerk's 'Radioactivity', the more layers you have to peel away with your ears before you get to the music, the better. (Side note: 'News' is one of the most terrifying pieces of music ever. I still can't listen to it in the dark without getting the feeling I'm being watched.)

Does that make sense? It did to me when I sat down but I'm not sure I got the point across. I'm certainly not suggesting you run out right away and get the remaster if you don't already have it, because you absolutely should. It's not necessarily better or worse, just a different way to hear the album.

That said, you haven't really experienced the album until you've put the needle on the record, so to speak.


a pain that I'm used to

Where to begin?

The whole project reeks of: "we need something to put out with minimal work".

The single alone is an exercise in pointlessness. Not only was exactly no one shouting out for yet more remixes of 'Personal Jesus', the best you can do is Eric fucking Prydz? (I had hope for the Alex Metric remix - because he's pretty fantastic - but even he sounds like he phoned it in.)

Don't even get me started on the remix album itself and it's insane number and configurations of digital only bonus tracks. Wasn't the internet supposed to make record collecting easier?

If this is all you've got left in you, it's time to pack it in, boys.


beat deluxe

And just like that, 'Beauty and the Beat' is 30 years old. To celebrate, we are getting a 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on May 17th, featuring the original album - remastered for the first time since its 1986 debut! we're told - on disc one and a 17-song live set recorded in Boston in 1981 on disc two. While I'm no great Go-Go's historian, I imagine there has to be some kind of previously unreleased material or period rarities lying around to boost that first disc a bit. But whatever - it looks like a lovely set and I'm more than happy to have it.

Even better - we're also getting a pink vinyl reissue. Yes, pink. Lovely.

If "We Got The Beat" doesn't make you smile, check your pulse because you're probably dead:

(Like I needed to include a video of that one. Side note: why does pretty much every cover version of that song totally suck?)

My pick for best track, though, is non-single "How Much More":

See? There's more stuff they could add. Oh well.

For whatever reason, nothing any of these five ladies did after this album - together or on their own - even came close. Except, of course, Jane Wiedlin's appearance in the greatest movie of all time: