The Esteem Age (Hanover Grand Review)
3 February 1996
Submitted by: Inge Klinkers
THE ESTEEM AGE
`The oxygen of celebrity is Suede's birthright, but the only blue faces here belong to several hundred asphyxiated members of Suede's fan club'
HANOVER GRAND, LONDON
"OH, what happened to you, whatever happened to me? What became of the people we used to be?"
Stardate: January, 1996, and Brett Anderson is not famous any more. Which puts him in an unfamiliar new position. Not so long ago, when brave Suede stood alone against the checkshirted hordes, fame was almost Brett's raison d'être. But now... what is Brett Anderson for?
Every culture, when it hits Boom Time, reaches a mood of grotesque over-confidence and builds vulgar monuments to itself, the only aesthetic gauge being scale. This is Boom Time for indie rock. "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" is in the Billboard Top 10. Every day, we hear of big numbers exceeded by bigger ones, precedents set, records broken. The New Vulgarians are having the time of their lives. Let them enjoy it. In the living present, size may overshadow beauty, but history has a way of correcting these things.
For the moment, then, the nation is not holding its breath for a new Suede record. I could hold forth till I'm blue in the face with reasons why it should, why the oxygen of celebrity is Suede's birthright, but the only blue faces here belong to several hundred asphyxiated members of Suede's disturbingly/encouragingly young fan club, rammed in to this secret showcase like a Brightlingsea veal truck depicted by Hieronymous Bosch.
"Thank you for coming all this way. 'Preciate it."
We've got through several miles of snow to be here... but then - ha ha - so have Suede. First impressions: no major image change. Brett, as usual, has come as James Bolam in "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?": pointy-collared shirt unbuttoned to exhibit Venetian blind ribs and flat stomach, slightly flared trousers at ankle-baring half-mast, strangely unstylish shoes. The others, as usual, have come as dockside rent boys and unemployed navvies circa 1975.
There's a new fifth member, who has the face of Laetitia Sadier, dresses in regulation Suedewear and supplies everything from piano to handclaps. After some deliberation, we decide it's a girl. Then Brett introduces it as "Neil".
Brett's curiously immobile tonight. Perhaps it's nerves, but his arse remains noticeably unstopped. Only towards the end do the hips rock and the hands clap. But, inevitably, all eyes tonight are on Richard Oakes. We've waited patiently. We know he, er, "plays like the devil". But can he write songs that will - ahem - "blow our heads off"? Of the nine tracks we hear from the forthcoming successor to "Dog Man Star" (judging by the T-shirt stall, it's called "She"), maybe three are wandering in search of a tune to dance with, like wallflowers at the end of a youth club disco. The other six, alternating between spidery, E-string arpeggiosand blackhearted, fx pedal-abusing descending chords, are quite wonderful. The only "old" song is "New Generation" B-side "Together"... written by
Anderson/Oakes. (During the last number, I catch sight of David McAlmont over my shoulder. It's the first time I think about Bernard Butler all night.)
I catch a few titles, "Film Star", “Lazy" and (I think) "A Terrible Mistake" but, more importantly, I catch the mood, which alternates between the specifically late-twentysomething alienation David Bowie defined on "Low" and the MW radio romanticism Suede first explored with "The Wild Ones". One sons in particular is so anthemic it's ridiculous, a potential sequel to "Animal Nitrate", Brett's voice cutting through to the spine like broken crystal: "Oh, whatever makes her happy... on a Saturday night...”
Hold your breath if you like. Suede are coming back to steal it.