'Coming Up' is perfect. It's where Brett realizes that, at heart, Suede are really just a big dumb pop band and sets out to make their big dumb pop album. It's ten tracks long, which is the perfect length for a pop album, fact. As Mat Osman is quoted as saying in the new liner notes, it is their "album to do your hair to", and that's really about as high a compliment I can think for it.
The album has a certain sound to it, which I will admit took me a bit to come around to. It's produced within an inch of it's life - a bit treble-y, perhaps - and Brett's vocals in particular have so many effects on them that it hardly sounds like him at all. In the grand scheme of things, though, it all works - if you're going for pop perfection, all the flaws have to go. It's a bit like the porn star image version of Suede, if you will, all tarted up and ready to go.
Song-wise, this is the only time that they got the track list exactly right; every song is where it needs to be for maximum impact. There are some amazing songs hidden away on the b-sides, to be sure, but none of them would add to the overall effectiveness of the album if included. Lyrically things get a bit - ahem - lazy, but that also avoids the over-reach that marred the first two albums. This is POP people, we want to hear about filmstars propping up the bar and being the litter on the breeze and shaking our meat to the beat and all that. At the risk of repeating myself - too late - BIG and DUMB and POP are the words of the day and 'Coming Up' delivers in spades...even the "heartfelt" moments compare true love to drug classes and watching car crashes while eating sandwiches.
This is, ultimately, the essence of Suede in 10 easy to digest song-lets. Brett states in the 'Dog Man Star' booklet that if he could only be remembered for one musical document it would be that, but he's a fool - 'Coming Up' is surely the one to be proudest of.
Bonus material time! Seven demos follow the album, and as far as demos go they're an interesting listen. The "Saturday Night" demo is the same as on the original single and I'm fairly certain the "Filmstar" demo is the one from the 7" but I'd have to dig that out to double check, but the others are getting their first release here as far as I can tell. (Actually, "Lazy" and/or "She" may have been released on the flips of some of the cassette singles of the era, but not having them I can't compare. Anyone? Also: CASSETTE singles. Big. dumb. pop.)
Following them are the three left-over b-sides from the 'Dog Man Star' campaign. They're all fantastic - "Asda Town" is a hidden gem as it was left off of 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' and was impossible to track down for a very long time - but they don't belong here. We've gone over that, though... (Side note: "Asda Town" is one of the tracks that was edited down for space constraints and features a very early fade out compared to the original.)
Disc two collects sixteen of the seventeen(!) new studio tracks that were released on the CDs for the five singles from the album - Neil's solo track "Digging A Hole" is missing, but you're not really missing much there. Most of these you probably already have on 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' so you know that many of them are as good as what made the album. (They just don't fit on the album, right? Right.) "Europe Is Our Playground" is the original b-side version not the re-recording from the compilation - I've never really been able to tell the difference but I've also never compared them side by side - and both "W.S.D." and "Feel" get edits for space. "W.S.D." is a real shame as it's a decidedly non-Suede song, a really great groove-based track - that gets a bit lost with the last two minutes of instrumental freak-out getting chopped off, not to mention you miss out on Brett literally going barking mad - while "Feel" is still too long at almost half of its original length.
My vote for best b-side - and, possibly, best overall track - of the era? "Money", no question. Yesterday I commented to a friend how it sounds like 'Too Fast For Love' if the Sunset Strip was located in London, and even though I'm not entirely sure I can tell you what I mean by that, it's meant as a compliment. (UK hair metal maybe? I don't know.) Anyways, that it wasn't chosen as one of the encore b-sides on the recent album gigs is a crime as it would go down a total storm live. (Have they ever done it?)
We only get one extra track this time, a rehearsal room recording of an unreleased song called "Motown". It's a total racket and not much of a song - not that that really stopped them at this point, "Young Men" or "These Are The Sad Songs" anyone? - but it's refreshing to listen to as an un-produced demo after the complete overproduction of the album and b-sides, and it's a nice reminder that this was a band that was re-discovering the joy of playing together again. Like the disc one demos, probably not something you'll listen to repeatedly but it's nice to have.
The DVD gives us the five promo videos and they're all perfect for the album if a bit boring to actually sit down and watch. The best bit is watching Neil in the "Beautiful Ones" video stare at the camera with an "I don't give a fuck" look while holding down one key for an extended period of time. Perfection. There are also extra videos for "Europe Is Our Playground" and "Shipbuilding" - neither are terribly exciting - plus the now standard bonus concerts: the professionally shot gig that the live tracks from the "Filmstar" single came from featuring Neil Tennant, and yet another bootleg quality show, this time from the 'Dog Man Star' tour featuring the live debut of Richard Oakes. Again, it doesn't belong here and the quality on this one is the worst of the shows so far, so that's a bit of a miss even if it does have historical significance.
'Coming Up' is the only perfect Suede album and even though much of the material on this set was already available, this has been my favorite of the remasters so far.