It all sounds rather tinny these days. Still absolutely fucking glorious, but pretty tinny. At the time it sounded vital: stirring music for indie outsiders, the length and breadth of the country. ‘Coming Up’ can never match ‘Suede’ or ‘Dog Man Star’ for atmosphere, songcraft and so many other things but then those two records can’t match ‘Coming Up’ for its thoroughly dirty, unashamedly trashy fixation with decadent living in the nineties. It celebrates not fitting in, not doing the right thing and not giving a shit. It is one of the most confident sounding records I own and it couldn’t really have been released at any other time than the summer of 1996.
Suede are back now and garnering the rave reviews that pretty much nobody was willing to give them around the time they originally decided to pack it all in, back in 2003. The only time I’ve ever actually seen them live was the tour supporting their last album, ‘A New Morning’, which represented the death throes of a once great band. Having developed a monumental crush on Gemma Hayes, across the duration of her all-too-brief support set, I was even less receptive than I may have otherwise been to Brett Anderson’s dispiriting angry, bitter man routine. I’ve never seen a frontman so completely propelled by seeming disgust and it only served to set the tone for the night.
Despite all of this, I actually rather liked their final outing, and had bought tickets off the back of it, rather than hoping for a nostalgia trip. And yet, left baffled by an almost self-parodying performance it was the irresistible high of ‘Beautiful Ones’ which really connected that night and brought back memories of buying both CD singles so as to complete my ‘collector’s wallet’, right off the back of the CD single of ‘Trash’ having contained a poster of Brett’s handwritten lyrics to that enormous track. Indeed, while subject of much mirth and fairly constant ridicule, it’s Anderson’s lyrics that provided my route back to Suede recently with the publication of ‘The Words Of Brett Anderson’, a signed, miniature hardback book collecting the vast majority of his lyrics from the past eighteen years. It’s a delightful little title and, while there are still moments that make you want to stab your own eyes out to spare your brain any further suffering (“And she’s as similar as you can get, to the shape of a cigarette” anyone?) there are plenty of examples to evoke genuinely fond memories of Anderson and Suede in their pomp. I’ve always adored the heartfelt simplicity of the closing track on ‘Coming Up’, ‘Saturday Night’. “Tonight, we’ll go drinking, we’ll do silly things, and never let the winter in. And it’ll be okay, like everyone says, it’ll be alright and ever so nice.” While hardly groundbreaking, it paints a pretty vivid picture for me and, coupled with a perfectly measured musical backdrop, it is one of my very favourite songs by this quite spectacular band.
The nineties indie-glam swagger of tracks like ‘Filmstar’, ‘Trash’ and ‘She’ are neatly counterbalanced by the epic crooners like ‘Picnic By The Motorway’, ‘The Chemistry Between Us’ and the aforementioned ‘Saturday Night’. One of the band’s best b-sides also dates from the ‘Coming Up’ era. ‘Another No One’, which appeared as back up to ‘Trash’ but which has since become more readily available via the compilation, ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’, is a stark, stirring and pretty pissed off account of the end of a relationship. If you’ve never had the pleasure, allow me…
Listening back to ‘Coming Up’ now, it sounds very much of a time, without sounding particularly dated. Though that may sound contradictory, I would argue that although it richly evokes a particular moment in time, bringing back vivid cultural and personal memories, it hasn’t become jaded by that association. It doesn’t sound like it’s not fit for purpose in 2010. The reviews that have greeted their recent live comeback would seem to suggest that they’ve all still got it, even if the record buying public decreed eight years ago that that wasn’t actually the case. Spend a little time revisiting whatever Suede you have in your collection and see if their charm is still alive for you; it’s been a strangely invigorating experience for me.