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Britpop Redux: The Top 10 Suede Singles

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Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013

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5. “The Beautiful Ones”
(Coming Up, 1996)


If comeback single “Trash” was the sound of Suede regaining its second wind after being dismissed as a viable contender in any battle for Britpop’s title, its follow-up “The Beautiful Ones” was the knockout punch. The joy of “The Beautiful Ones” is in how it presents the now five-piece ensemble audibly reassured and revitalized after a period of setbacks. From its bouncy riff (a immediately grabbing guitar line that by rights should elevate Richard Oakes above the “replacement Bernard Butler” jibes he was initially subjected to) and swaggering beat, to Anderson’s klaxon call chorus and flirty wordplay, it was the catchiest a-side Suede had delivered since “Stay Together”, or maybe even “Animal Nitrate”. “You don’t think about it / You don’t do without it / Because you’re beautiful / Yeah, yeah”, Anderson exhalts in the masterfully executed bridge that does what all middle-eights should do, boost a track to another level. You’ll shake your bits to this hit, surely. —AJ Ramirez


 
4. “The Drowners”
(Suede, 1993)


“The Drowners” was the one that started it all, Suede’s first single and as good a place as any to begin an origin story for Britpop. Coming on the heels of a Melody Maker cover touting Suede as “The Best New Band in Britain”, “The Drowners” lived up to hype, the first of the group’s triumvirate of singles. Intro’d to Simon Gilbert’s booming drums, with Bernard Butler’s guitar locking in with ‘em, “The Drowners” is more rhythmic and grooving than the other singles from the self-titled debut, more of a sashay than a strut. Lyrically, Brett Anderson more than made good on the androgynous polysexuality he played up in the media with his immortalized soundbite about being a “bisexual man who never had a homosexual relationship”: when Anderson suggestively croons, “When he writes the line, wrote down my spine / It says, ‘Oh, do you believe in love there?’, the possibilities, permutations, and perspectives seem endless. But it’s the line, “We kiss in his room to a popular tune”, that’s the most telling here: Circa 1992, that make-out song Anderson’s referring to should be “The Drowners”. —Arnold Pan


 
3. “Stay Together”
(Single, 1994)


My god. Stately and sweeping, I argue that this overblown slice of “us against the world” melodrama is the one moment where Suede truly matched the gravitas of their idols. Anderson holds court like a true star with his skyscraping coos, but the song is ultimately Butler’s. The guitarist’s opulent layers of overdubs help elevate what could’ve been a throwaway stopgap single into his magnum opus, his final triumph before exiting the band in 1994. Whether in its radio-ready edit or its full-bore eight-minute incarnation (by all means, give it a listen), “Stay Together” is magnificence on a level that few from the Britpop era ever matched. —AJ Ramirez


 
2. “Animal Nitrate”
(Suede, 1993)


The highest charting of Suede’s unholy trinity of early singles, “Animal Nitrate” is also the most debauched and decadent of the trio, which is saying something. Coming out in February 1993 in advance of the self-titled debut’s release a month later, “Animal Nitrate” dropped any trace of coyness, dispensed with the pleasantries, and got down-and-dirty, especially when Anderson sneered, “Oh, in your council home, he jumped on your bones / Now you’re taking it time after time”. And yet, even if there’s nothing particularly tender about a song with a title that riffs on stimulant-fueled pleasure seeking and fairly brutal lyrics on paper, the combo of Butler’s glammed-up guitars and Anderson’s desperate crooning conveyed an idea of romance all Suede’s own. If anything, the song’s anthemic, exuberant sound made it feel more transcendent than transgressive, especially as Butler’s climbing guitar lines reached for the stars and made all the chit-chat about sexual mores white noise. So when Anderson asks “What does it take to turn you on?” near the end of the song, it’s a rhetorical question that Suede knew the answer to with the historic run of singles that launched its career. —Arnold Pan


 
1. “Metal Mickey”
(Suede, 1993)


If debut 45 “The Drowners” triggered a wave of whispers to the underground resistance of waifs ‘n’ strays to join hands and unite, “Metal Mickey” was the full-on, electrified siren to rise up and take ov-ah. A three-and-a-half-minute snot-nosed, two-fingered, air raid warning that things were gonna change muthafuckers. A classic Suede yarn of being led into temptation by some sultry, tempestuous devil… and the subsequent bollocking from your dad. Sharing its name with a shambolic ‘80s UK TV show about a shoddy robot, “Metal Mickey” is a headspinning, neighbour-bothering barrage of carnivorous carnality set to a ravenous, blitzkrieg bop of chainsaw guitars, handclaps and glitter stomp heels. A clandestine revolution forged in dark alleys, dingy basements and expertly executed in torn, lipstick-stained blouses, Chelsea boots and second hand suits. The subtext to “Mickey” was perfectly interpreted by one pacified nation’s silent minority… “MY BEAUTIFUL FREAKS! YOUR TIME IS NOW! STORM THE BARRICADES!” We heard you, loud and clear. —Matt James


Tagged as: britpop | list this | suede
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