Suede? Not Really!

Paul Lester

22 May 1993

Melody Maker

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Submitted by: Inge Klinkers

SUEDE? NOT REALLY!

SUEDE

BRIXTON ACADEMY

THIS is happening with our permission. We wanted it to happen. We virtually willed it to happen. Suede are this season's singing saviours because we needed them, urgently, desperately. They filled a gap, catered to a demand. What does it take to turn us on? Suede, it would seem, almost exclusively so.

But are Suede really the only thing happening in pop right now? Of course they're bloody not (a list of the records-of-the-year-so-far would take up the whole of this review), but it feels good to pretend we're all united by a single cause, just like we were in the Sixties (The Beatles), the Seventies (the Pistols) and the Eighties (The Smiths).

There is plenty to celebrate about Suede's irresistible ascent, yet much of what fascinates about the band is our response to them - the fawning articles, our frantic rush to buy their debut album, and (in tonight's instance) the teeming, screaming hordes of small girls and boys squeezed together at the front of the stage.

Do Suede deserve this feverish starlust? Not completely. Although sobriety rarely does pop (writing) any favours, a couple of criticisms are long overdue.

To start with, Suede's furiously anticipated first London show for 10 months offers a fairly conventional form of rock'n'roll excitement and a less than original summation of the "classic" sounds of the Stones, The Stooges and The Spiders From Mars.

Suede bring few quirks or kooky idiosyncrasies to bear on their trad-rock noise - a reflection of their record collections, for sure. If Suede are going to venerate rock's first three decades, maybe they should invest in some Fugs, Zappa, Beefheart, Todd Rundgren, Can, Magazine, PiL and Wire, then learn to loosen up a bit, to experiment and explore. Just a thought.

It really is amazing how readily this teen crowd accepts Suede's Yesterday's Music Today-isms. The old excuse that pop isn't meant for ageing snobs who have simply heard too many records in their lifetime won't wash, either. Like the 20-somethings interviewed in the Maker's Rebellious Jukebox each week, Suede's audience may be young, but they're rock-literate enough to know their Bowie from their Brett.

Talking of whom, Brett Anderson fails to convince as a libidinous titan of teen in the same way that Suede themselves make unbelievable Rock Gods. For all his pouting, preening and posturing, one gets the impression Anderson's flirtation with androgyny is exactly that - a holiday in other people's sexual misery. Were one to present Suede's frontman with a nice fat juicy pink stiffy, he'd probably reach for a copy of The Bible, then run a mile.

There is nothing truly debauched or depraved about Suede, despite the references to "chasing the dragon" or "f***ing with a slip of a man". It's a coy kind of camp, a polite type of perversity.

It's like, whereas Jagger played with Hell's Angels, Iggy smashed broken glass against his bare chest and Morrissey toyed with the idea of dysfunctionalism, even real disability (remember the hearing aid?), Anderson just slaps his arse and struts from side to side. The eager outstretched arms of the kids beneath his feet suggest Brett's the new messiah, but precisely what do his fans want from him? Who does he represent? What does he stand for?

Nothing in particular. Brett Anderson is a cute amalgam of all his personal heroes, yet it's doubtful he'll ever really get his hands dirty the way they did and really immerse himself in the mud and myth of rock'n'roll culture. He's a meta-icon, a star who stands for little but stardom itself and an idol for a generation who just, well, needed someone to idolise. Right place, right time, and all that.

Listen, the gig was fine, occasional fantastic, especially the MTV award-winning "Animal Nitrate" which proved that, when it's on form, the traditional four-piece rock line-up can thrill like nothing else. And the scenes outside the Academy involving a gaggle of frothing pubescents craning their necks up at Suede in their dressing room were exhilarating in the extreme.

As one girl under Suede's window sighed, "They were every bit as good as I hoped they'd be".

Yup, Suede catered to everyone's needs, all right. They were satisfying. Yet the insatiable part of me keeps asking: is that really enough?

PAUL LESTER

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