I think I get it: 'Suede'

One of the features on the DVD portion of the 'Suede' Deluxe Edition is a live performance from the week after "Animal Nitrate" was released as a single and, therefore, about a month before the album itself was unveiled. The recording itself is a bit of a disaster - captured from presumably the back of the club by a hand-held video camera, it continually zooms in and out on the stage. Sometimes it focuses in on one individual band member - usually Brett, prancing around the stage initially in a lacy white woman's blouse until the audience rips all but a sleeve off, which he finally removes himself and throws to the screaming throng, itself unintentionally hilarious and worth the price of admission alone - and sometimes capturing the heads of the crowd frantically bobbing up and down excitedly to the band giving it their all. Despite not being what you'd expect from a professionally produced product - the audio is quite muffled and clearly not even remotely touched up in the studio, there are sharp cuts between songs presumably to save battery and/or tape space, the video itself ends halfway through "To The Birds" leaving the band in a permanently unfinished performance - for me it is the best part of the package. Watching the video, the excitement of the band at the time finally sunk it, I finally understood why they mattered. Even watching on a television screen while sitting on a couch 18 years after the fact, the energy of the band was captivating and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Even more important than that, the promise of the band was there - they had, at the time, released three incredible singles backed with six impossibly strong b-sides, and almost all of the "new" material played during the set suggested they were going to carry it through to the full length.

Except, of course, they didn't. Another feature on the DVD is a modern interview with Brett and Bernard about the album and its creation, and one thing they mention is the important of the singles and particularly b-sides at the time and how that tied their hands a bit when it came to assembling the album. While it certainly wouldn't have been unheard of to re-use one or two of the b-sides from the first two singles on the album, they wanted the singles to stand on their own and were now faced with writing songs as good as "My Insatiable One", "To The Birds" (both called out as songs Brett wishes he could have put on the album) and "He's Dead". Everyone involved seems to think they were able to, but the continual mention of "I wish such-and-such had been put on in place of this or that instead of relegated to b-side status" suggests that they weren't quite as successful as they'd like to think.

Here's the thing, though: I now also understand that the imperfection of the album is part of what people love about it. You're not supposed to get everything right the first time out - even a band wish the promise, talent and vision they clearly had at the time are bound to fuck something up.

This package gives you the whole picture. The admission that they had painted themselves into a corner and this was how they chose to get out opened my eyes a bit to the album, and I can see it how they and others have seen it for years. It's a bit like Smashing Pumpkins' 'Gish' in a way - far from perfect with obviously lower quality material being put on in place of stronger, previously released material, but an incredibly honest picture of a young and talented band. It's never going to be my favorite Suede album and I still don't understand the strong emotional connection people seem to have with it - it's a series of over-the-top glammed-up pop songs about sex and drugs when you boil it down - but I can appreciate it in a whole new way after spending more time with the era.

Bring on 'Dog Man Star'.

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