|Released 29 March 1993|
Release date 29 March 1993
Producer Ed Buller
Label Nude Records
|Studio Master Rock Studios in London|
Genres Britpop, Alternative rock, Glam rock
Similar Suede albums, Britpop albums
Suede is the debut album by English alternative rock band Suede, released in March 1993 on Nude Records. At the time the fastest-selling debut album in British history, Suede debuted at the top of the UK Album Chart, won the 1993 Mercury Music Prize, and is often credited with starting the Britpop movement. Its music and lyrical content has been compared to The Smiths and early David Bowie.
- Suede so young audio only
- Background and recording
- Title and artwork
- Release and reception
- Commercial performance
- Legacy and influence
- Track listing
Released to considerable hype, the album was met with enthusiastic reviews both in the UK and in the US. It gained popularity in the US and remains the group's biggest-selling album there. In 2013, NME placed the album at number 78 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Suede so young audio only
Background and recording
Suede quickly attracted the attention of the British music press; in 1992 before they had even released their debut single, Melody Maker featured the band on its cover, dubbing them "The Best New Band in Britain." The year leading up to the release of Suede saw the group dominate the music press, receiving considerable critical praise. According to a March 1993 article in The Independent, at the time Suede "had more hype than anybody since the Smiths, or possibly even the Sex Pistols."
Suede was recorded at Master Rock Studios in Kilburn, north west London and cost £105,000 to make. In the studio, the producer Ed Buller's method of working was that he would form a close relationship with the band member whom he thought to be most important for the sound and creative input. In Suede's case it was guitarist Bernard Butler, which did not go down well with Anderson. Buller would be the band's closest musical collaborator for the years ahead. Anderson liked Buller as a person and for his enthusiasm for Suede. He endorsed his production on the first single "The Drowners"; however, he had different views on "Metal Mickey", feeling that Buller took the "metal brutality" out of the song. Instead of the song ending abruptly after the chorus, which the band demonstrated when performing live, Buller suggested an extended fade-out, which incorporated a key change. Anderson also had an issue with the song "Moving", saying "It never sounds as good on that album as it did live. There's hardly anything of the energy, it's over-produced, it's all a bit FX, it's a bit grim." Butler would eventually clash with Buller for similar reasons during the recording of the next album, which was an event Anderson could perceive early on. "I think as Bernard got more technically aware, because he always had a fine ear, he very soon saw flaws in what Ed was doing.
Nick Wise views the whole album in terms of Butler and Anderson constantly trying to outperform each other, thereby producing "a pot-pourri of swirling guitars, falsetto wails and surging amplification that somehow succeeds in producing a giddy, weird, beautiful soundclash". In Suede's early days when Justine Frischmann was still a member and was dating Blur's Damon Albarn, the lyrics of her ex-partner Anderson were conveying a more depressing meaning. He has noted that the songs "Pantomime Horse" and B-side "He's Dead" were the product of an unhappy mind and that he could not have written such songs if he had been happy. Anderson states, "when it comes to writing, there's something to be said about being unhappy. I know I've been at my most creative when I've been sexually unsatisfied."
Suede's breakthrough single was "Metal Mickey", which charted at no. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. According to Anderson, the song was inspired by Daisy Chainsaw vocalist KatieJane Garside. Butler has noted that its musical inspiration was "The Shoop Shoop Song", famously remade by Cher. Anderson wrote "Sleeping Pills" whilst doing voluntary work at a local community centre in Highgate. It was inspired by the daily drama of the British housewives and their dependence on valium as a means of escapism. At the time he felt that the song's lyrics were more sophisticated than "Animal Nitrate", which he thought were "a bit throw-away." The band were determined to release "Sleeping Pills" as the third single, but were soon over-ruled by Nude Records' owner Saul Galpern, who suggested the former instead.
"Animal Nitrate", a play on amyl nitrite, would be the album's most successful single, peaking at no. 7. The song contained Anderson's most risqué lyrics to date: as their author concurred, "You know it's about violence and abuse and sex and drugs. It's actually quite a hardcore song." Anderson has since said that the first album was about "sex and depression in equal measure". All the latter-day lyrics for the first album were directly influenced by extremely personal and emotional experiences in Anderson's life. "So Young", featuring a piano bridge courtesy of Ed Buller, was about his girlfriend's overdose. Anderson says: "it deals with the knife-edge of being young." "The Next Life", which was Butler's first serious piano part, was a lament to his deceased mother, while "Breakdown" dealt with his schoolfriend's descent into extreme depression. "She's Not Dead", was a true story written about the joint suicide of Anderson's aunt and her black clandestine lover. On the song, Anderson states: "the ankle chain and stuff like that, is the kind of detail that can only come from truth, that can't be conjured up."
On the other hand, Anderson has elsewhere stressed that the songs are not autobiographical, but "often imaginary situations based on real sentiments, or real situations taken to their logical extreme". When asked about the pervasive use of the word "he" in his songs, Anderson stated that "too much music is about a very straightforward sense of sexuality ... Twisted sexuality is the only kind that interests me. The people that matter in music ... don't declare their sexuality. Morrissey never has and he's all the more interesting for that".
Title and artwork
Before the album was released, the band half seriously considered titles of Half Dog, Animal Lover and I Think You Stink, all were rejected in favour of Suede. The gender-ambiguous cover art provoked some controversy in the press, prompting Anderson to comment: "I chose it because of the ambiguity of it, but mostly because of the beauty of it." The cover image of the androgynous kissing couple was taken from the 1991 book Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs edited by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser. The photograph was taken by Tee Corinne and in its entirety shows a woman kissing an acquaintance in a wheelchair.
Release and reception
Suede opened at the top of the UK Albums Chart and was the fastest-selling debut album since Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome almost ten years earlier. The album's singles were well received. Select magazine declared "Animal Nitrate" as single of the year. Debut single "The Drowners" garnered much acclaim from NME and Melody Maker, who both voted the song 'single of the year'. Fourth single "So Young", charted at number 22.
The album itself received generally positive reviews by the UK critics, Keith Cameron of the NME gave the record seven out of ten in his review. Cameron compared Suede to The Smiths; he wrote, "'Suede' faces the same problems [as The Smiths did] and similarly fails to deliver on a few, admittedly trifling, levels". However, he concluded, "This is the solid, quality, ring-of-confidence debut [Nude Records] dreamed the band would produce". Stuart Maconie of Q gave the album 4 out of 5 stars. In his review he drew comparisons to Bowie, Morrissey and Marr. In conclusion he said "Bowie and the Smiths are obvious points of reference. From each, Suede have taken an alien sexual charisma, a peculiarly claustrophobic Englishness and brazenly good tunes. Moreover, rarely has a record from the indie sector come with such a burning sense of its own significance." In Select, Steve Lamacq noted "a feeling in the air that they haven't fully let themselves go yet", concluding: "As debuts go this isn't exactly Suede in flames: but what a smouldering attempt." Ben Thompson of The Independent wrote that "it would be a shame if the eagerness to get the backlash underway stopped their excellent album getting the respect it deserves."
The album was warmly received by American critics. Robert Christgau called it a "surprisingly well-crafted coming out. More popwise and also more literary than the Smiths at a comparable stage, Suede's collective genderfuck projects a joyful defiance so rock and roll it obliterates all niggles about literal truth." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, who awarded the album a full five stars, noted the contribution of the songwriting partnership, "Guitarist Bernard Butler has a talent for crafting effortlessly catchy, crunching glam hooks like the controlled rush of 'Metal Mickey' and the slow, sexy grind of 'The Drowners'." He then went on to say "Anderson's voice is calculatedly affected and theatrical, but it fits the grand emotion of his self-consciously poetic lyrics." Other stateside praise came from Rolling Stone who gave the album four stars, with reviewer David Fricke writing: "Suede is everything that great British pop stars used to be—compelling, confounding, infuriating."
The album featured in the top ten end-of-year best-of lists of NME, Select, Melody Maker,The Face, OOR and Eye Weekly.
The album charted at no. 1 in the UK Albums Chart spending 22 weeks in the top 40, the album shifted 100,000 copies in its first week. In March 1993 the British Phonographic Industry has certified the album as gold, as of September 2011 the album has sold 340,000 copies in the U.K. Suede is the group's best-selling album in the United States, having sold about 105,000 copies as of 2008, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Legacy and influence
Suede's debut album is regarded by critics as a defining album of the Britpop era. Often credited as starting Britpop. While most critics consider follow-up album Dog Man Star as the band's best work, there are a few who have recognised the first album as their finest moment. Reviewing the 2011 reissue, Kevin Courtney of the Irish Times spoke of the strength of Suede's early singles. Rating it five stars, one more than Dog Man Star, which he felt was "too fragmented and flawed to be their masterpiece." Likewise, with similar views, David Edwards of Drowned in Sound rated the reissue ten out of ten, and opined that "although Dog Man Star arguably contains more individually brilliant moments, there is a serious case for referring to their 1993 debut as overall, being their most complete realisation." He added: "what ultimately defines the classic nature of Suede is the fact that, unlike so many records of its time, it simply hasn’t dated."
Many of the artists who have cited the band as an influence have spoken directly of how the band's first album was an influence. Notable artists are Gerard Way of American rock band My Chemical Romance, Kate Jackson of English indie rock band The Long Blondes, and American indie rock band Drowners, who took their name from Suede's single of the same name.
(*) designates unordered lists.
All lyrics written by Brett Anderson; all music composed by Bernard Butler.
3She’s Not Dead4:34