When it comes to my writing, there is perhaps no one single human that has more of an influence on what I aspire to than Brett Anderson.
Anderson is the lead singer/songwriter of Suede, an English band that exploded in the early 1990s and kicked off the Britpop movement.
Their first, self-titled album is a mixture of raw youth and sexuality coupled with beautiful drama. When it first came out in 1993 and I read about the buzz, I purchased the album but don’t remember falling in love with it entirely. There were several tracks, such as “Sleeping Piils” and “The Next Life,” that kept me returning to it, but overall it was a bit of a mystery to me why it was SO HUGE.
I love the line, “Too Siamese to catch the leaves from those trees.” I still have no idea what it means, but it makes sense in the context of the song for some reason.
In 1994, Suede pretty much disavowed any association with what Britpop had become with the release of “Dogmanstar.”
I remember reading a review of the album in the College Music Journal (of which I was an avid reader because of the accompanying mix CD that came with every issue), and when I went to Sioux Falls next I purchased it.
I was immediately struck with its brilliance. I was a teen, and its dark and dramatic tales of romance, alienation and isolation created a whole universe in my mind. It was so tragic and romantic. Of course, it was considered somewhat of a commercial failure at the time, but it has gone on to be the favorite album of fans like myself. I consider it to be nothing short of a masterpiece.
In particular, I began to really take notice of Anderson’s lyrics. They made me look at the world in a different way, a talent that many writers do not possess. As you can imagine, I wrote a lot of poetry/lyrics that were attempts to emulate Anderson and I re-evaluated Suede’s debut album. Now, I believe it to be only of slightly lesser brilliance than “Dogmanstar.”
“Asphalt World,” a song about a love triangle, completely shook my soul and contains some of my favorite Suede lyrics: “Sometimes we ride in a taxi to the ends of the city/Like big stars in the back seat, like skeletons ever so pretty …” and “She’s got a friend, they share mascara, I pretend/Sometimes they fly from the covers to the winter of the river/For these silent stars of the cinema/It’s in the blood stream, it’s in the liver …”
Anderson always cites “The Wild Ones” as the high point of Suede’s creative abilities. Who am I to argue? It’s one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard. “And, oh, if you stay, I’ll chase the rain-blown fields away/We’ll shine in the morning and sin in the sun/Oh, if you stay, we’ll be the wild ones running with the dogs today.”
Suede would reach their commercial peak in 1996 with the release of “Coming Up,” which contains hit after hit (as least, for European and Japanese audiences), but moved away from the darkness and paranoia of “Dogmanstar.” The lyrics aren’t as thought-provoking and complex, but they still have charm and intoxicated my brain.
Take, for example, “Trash”: “We’re trash, you and me/We’re the litter on the breeze/We’re the lovers on the streets/Just trash, me and you/It’s in everything we do.”
The b-sides collection that followed, “Sci-Fi Lullabies,” contained some of Suede’s best material, a fact that wowed many critics who were not previously familiar with the band’s lesser-known work.
“The Living Dead” brought me to tears on first listen. It had an emotional resonance with me.
Due to self-admitted problems with drug addiction, Anderson’s lyrical output suffered on the final two Suede albums, “Head Music” and “A New Morning.” He started doing things like rhyming “house” with “mouse,” and the critics had a heyday ripping him to shreds. However, there were still plenty of musical highlights. “Everything Will Flow” was just one of them:
Suede broke up in 2003, and Anderson embarked on a solo career, where he went on to do some of the best lyrics of his life, in my opinion. He also did a very solid one-off album with The Tears.
A favorite track from this period is off the 2009 album “Slow Attack.” It’s called “Scarecrows and Lilacs.” It ends with, “Your hands look small and the skin is so cold/With your nails all cracked like beetles backs/They’ll cover the village like ghosts/They’ll cover the mountains like crows/But they’ll find us where our blood meets the snow, where the lilacs grow.”
Here is another fantastic song from the album:
Anderson and his music has been a constant in my life. (I even own a signed copy of his book of lyrics.) However, what brought him to the forefront or my mind recently was the reformation of Suede. For the last couple weeks, the band has been devoting each show to performing an entire album, which has delighted fans.
Suede has even said it plans to work on new material, but makes no promises it will see the light of day. Needless to say, people like me are crossing their fingers.
Here is a snippet from last week’s performance at London’s Brixton Academy:
This is a lot to digest in one post, and maybe I’ve only been successful in indulging in my own love for the work of Suede and Brett Anderson. However, the band never made inroads in the United States, so many Americans never had a chance to discover its music and fall in love with it.
I guess I’m giving you that chance.
Let me know if you get the same “love and poison” I got from Suede/Anderson …