SUEDE’S NEIL & MAT REVIEW THE SINGLES
12 April 1997
Submitted by: Jane Marshall
OH, I know it's mean to start with Blur. But Suede are in good company today. I'll happily provide a false alibi for whatever critical thrashing they choose to dish out to this record. Not because I hold Damon and co in any contempt, just because Blur sound like they're trying far too hard; "Whoo-hoo!", Indeed. Like molly-coddled mountain climbers, you can't help but hope they fall off just as they reach the summit.
Mat: "I've just got nothing to say about them. It's not that I hate them, it's just that it doesn't do anything for me; it's just in one ear and out the other. I've totally missed the appeal of Blur. They're not even one of those bands I detest."
MM: Do you hear any difference from the old Blur here?
Mat: "It's short! Which is...good.
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
THE sort of song that has you singing along after only the first line; that makes you want to run into the street, stop traffic, drag people from their cars and into your house; makes you want to play it to them again and again until they beg you not to throw them out. That good. My God, is this the future?
Mat: "So many people with good taste have told me about this band (Listens, grin spreading) That's Travis? They sound very now, which isn't what I expected. Everyone said they were very serious. Are they Irish? Scottish? It's great, actually - that's a really good chorus. It's funnier than I thought it would be. I hate that beat though, everything's got that beat."
Neil: "The chorus is a bit Supergrass-y, isn't it. Yeah, I can understand all the fuss."
YOUR SELFISH WAYS
THE sound a Hoover might make if it had sucked up a stack of Sade LPs somewhere just outside Bristol. Very dull indeed.
Mat: "I don't expect verses and choruses in music. There's loads of stuff that I absolutely love which isn't melodic at all. But it has to be interesting. For dance music, or stuff without choruses anyway, I prefer something like Sabres Of Paradise. It doesn't matter that their music has no verses and choruses, because every track's got a real mood. For 15 seconds at least. Unlike this record."
Neil: "I don't know anything about Locust and, judging by this, don't really want to. It has a groove and a sample, but so what? You probably have to get into it before you can judge it. Like DJ Shadow the first time round, you just have to get into the groove first."
MM: But would you listen to it again?
Mat: "If it was on the radio, maybe. You never know. We live in strange times."
ON A TUESDAY
FANTASTIC, fatalistic lyrics coupled with an instant, eerie, real presence that distinguishes it as significant record from the first note to the last. Kinda sorta like NY Loose but far, far more spooky.
Neil: "I don't know. It's sort of angular, isn't it?"
Mat: "She's got a really nice voice; it draws you in. It's got character, but it does get a bit tedious after a while."
Neil: "I'm sticking with angular. It's angular."
MM: I do get paid by the word you know, Neil. (Not on Singles you don't, Robin-Ed)
Neil: “Angular. That's a word."
SCUM, only the kind that won't rinse away. Offspring are one of the most successful acts in the world (sorta) which only confirms the suspicion that, if there is life on another planet, they'll never bother coming here.
Neil: 'They've gone post-punk now, haven't they? Actually, it's a bit Duran Duran, that guitar line. It's like every Sub Pop band, every dodgy school band. Ugh, now it's Ugly Kid Joe. There's such a difference between punk and punkers. This is nothing to do with punk. It's just the kind of thing that's on the radio because it's on the radio. Who buys it? Why? Where? With what? And what are they wearing?"
Mat: "This is just a bad record. It's so depressing when you go to America and this is all you hear."
MM: Look at the sleeve, though - a skeletal devil attacking a skeletal angel – and compare it to the sleeve of your single ("Lazy", featuring two airbrushed bodies entwined). Straight to the point/arty wank.
Mat: "Actually, they're quite similar. That's it. Let's sue!"
COMES with what appears to be a normal, run-of-the-mill chocolate bar. So we eat. We take the chunks, pop them into our mouths and chew away. Our mouths go numb. Our stomachs begin to turn like washing machines caught in a twister. Then we read the label: "Allow one piece at a time to dissolve slowly in the mouth. DO NOT CHEW. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery."
Kava Kava are going to get precisely nowhere with this dodgy, dancey Hendrix song but, hey, they have managed to poison a Top 10 pop band. Cool.
Neil: "Are we gonna start tripping now? It just tastes like those local anaesthetic sprays."
Mat (reading the label): "This is pretty strong stuff, actually. That's a great combination of effects: mild confusion and an aphrodisiac. You'd try and get off with anything."
MM: Neil, you're a very pretty boy, aren't you?
WHEN WE'RE TOGETHER
IF the room fizzled into grainy black and white and Harry Lime from "The Third Man" crept fleetingly past the glass doors, it'd come as no surprise. Very cinematic. Bit like merry-go-round music with the unshakeable hint of imminent violence. Kind of like John Barry and Enrico Morricone's lovechild seducing Pulp's underage sister.
Mat: "I liked that a lot. It really does sound like the theme to a late Seventies film. Something like The Black Windmill', Normally, when you hear sounds like that, they're just samples. It's nice to hear them done for real."
Neil: "It sounds really good, treading the line of being generic and somehow not being a period piece. It works very well, and it sounds very Nineties, actually. Strikes a nice balance. And, yeah, it is quite a brave choice for a debut single as well."
Mat: "Quiet, then loud. Always a good gimmick that."
ALMOST immediately, we're into the killer chorus, massive and insistent. Gorgeous guitar trills and the desolate voice of a fallen angel smiling through torrential rain. This is the updated counterpart to McAlmont's "Yes", a similarly smooth but devastatingly confident statement of self-belief: "You didn't think I could do it all," he sings, suppressing an audible smirk. Really, some of us did.
Mat: "That was cool."
Neil: "Really poppy. Very radio. You could imagine that blaring outbof every taxi. A real arms-in-the-air, big-grin song, but not too imposing at the same time."
Mat: "It's kind of cool, because you could imagine a Lighthouse Family fan getting into that, too. He's got a lovely voice. I'd sort of prefer it a bit harder though; it's a little bit soft. Almost..."
Mat: "It could be. But British soul records have been so much better this year than they have for such a long time. Yeah, that was a good car song."
MM: You'd need a convertible for the full epic effect.
Mat: "Well, my window's broken. That'll have to do."
PERFORMED and recorded solely by Mr Taylor himself, this is almost Prince-like in its twisted, freeform soul feel. In the way he gets so carried away towards the end, forgetting the course of the tune and just drifting off into a thousand different melodies. Very Prince, that. Well, I think so anyway.
Neil: "Do you? No, he wants to be Marvin Gaye or The Isley Brothers."
Mat: "It's great though, isn't it? Incredibly summery. They'll love it over at Jazz FM. This song was really interesting and very professionally done, but Jai did it better -I'd end up listening to Jai at home. This is mood music really: just for a certain kind of situation. What situation? I'm not sure. I'll have to carry the CD around with me for the next year waiting to find the perfect moment now!"
Neil: "He will too."
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
ALMOST Asian, mantra-minded vocals over a none-more-Beck pot pourri of found sounds and saucepan beats. Lou Barlow excels himself once again. Better than Sebadoh. Very ghostly. Very cool.
F***ing amazing piece of music.
Mat: "This is great. I really like this. Really nice, hypnotic."
Neil: "Is it just me, or is it the weather today, but doesn't everything sound like it'd be perfect played in a car? This is quite like The Beloved as well, isn't it?"
Mat: "I'm totally surprised by this because I had him pegged as something else altogether. Glum. When it started, I was thinking: 'If this is another record that sounds like Beck, I won't be able to listen to it. 'Like, you know how every British record sounds like Portishead? Every American record sounds like Beck these days."
Neil: "I get annoyed at the Beck album, anyway. It sounds too much like itself!"
YOU LOVE YOU
THEATRICAL chaos, the joy of life translated through the pain of life. PB Jnr's cracked vocal fills the air he breathes with love, scorn, fear, with everything music ever hoped to express. Like Travis, Subcircus are impossibly bright stars shining in a brightening firmament. Unlike Travis, this song's been kicking around long enough to pass its Single Of The Week sell-by date. Otherwise...
Mat: "The last single, '86'd', was fantastic - such a simple song, but really great. God knows what made it stand out from the thousands of other bands who use the same three chords. This one's cool, too. Dead simple, something anyone could play, but just great anyway."
Neil: “Their album's really good, and this is an excellent track to choose as a single. When you listen to it you don't think: 'Ooh, The New Seriousness' or whatever. It's quite unobtrusive but it's not apologetic, it's just a really good record. You'd listen to it right up to the end and you'd want to put it on again when it finished. It rocks live as well."
MM: How do you feel about that whole New Seriousness scene?
Mat: "It's good, isn't it? You see, I hate irony in music - it's absolute cowardice. What's the point of making a statement in a record, saying something worth saying then, right at the end, putting in a 'PS: We might not mean it.' I never find comedy records funny, I don't find funny things funny. I find someone else hurting themselves funny."
STARING AT THE SUN
LIKE staring at the sun, wanking about can also lead to blindness. Apparently.
Except U2 manage to restrain themselves this time, almost returning to the epic elegance of "One" and preserving their eyesight in the attempt.
Neil: "Talking about irony... they're chief ironists U2; all that wanky post-postmodernist nonsense. So it's good that they can do something like this Something that they really mean: a totally earnest song."
Mat: "I completely agree. All U2's best tracks have been their straightest ones. They write great songs, they can't seem to help it. The last single did absolutely f***ing nothing for me, though. It always happens with dance/rock crossover – you get rock records that don't rock and dance records you can't dance to. That's just a good song, though. It wouldn't have mattered whether they had 40 people doing loops or if they'd just left it alone."
NEIL CODLING'S UNBIASED
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
SINCE Mat's nipped off to feed his parking metre and Neil's lost in the sound of his ivories being tenderly tickled, let me quickly note that this is the disappointingly bruised tomato on "Coming Up". It's a wonderful pop song, summer fresh and elevating. But I like my Suede unbrushed, a little ragged, and there's too sizeable a chance that the polite tunefulness of "Lazy" will go down a storm with your mum. The B-sides, however, are astonishing, wired and walking the high-wire of risk. Buy.
Mat: "'Digging A Hole' was the first time we've ever gone into a studio with practically nothing written and just saw what came out of a jam. We learned so much, and to do it by the skin of our teeth, mixing it five minutes before we had to catch a plane, that was really exciting. These B-sides are like a compilation tape a friend would make you. All five tracks together sound seriously bizarre."
Neil: "I'm gonna review 'Lazy'. Well l only played four notes on it! It's one of my favourites on the album. It's really simple, really great. So it's my Single Of The Week. OK?"
TREASURE it. An almost frivolously wry Bee Gees-meets-Bacharach bedroom masterpiece from the ex-frontman of the band (Eggs) who once defined the words "sadly neglected". The first song's like finding a really funny joke inside a Christmas cracker.
Mat: "Well! It's very endearing."
MM: It's notironic, though.
Mat: "I know, sure... it's very charming. But it's not something I could love, it's not something I could imagine myself playing at home. Although it doesn't quite fall through, it is skating on very thin ice."
Neil: "It's extremely innocent though, isn't it? You can't really review something like this - people just have to hear it. You know those records that really affect you even if you don't particularly like them?
Like Brian Eno's 'I'll Come Running To Tie Your Shoe'."
Mat: "I won't be able to get that out of my head now. Thanks."
SNOOP DOGGY DOGG
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
Death Row/Def Jam
YAWWWWWWN. Love the way these chaps always mention themselves in their records. Maybe it's in case they forget their names, like the way new- born babies have those nametags strapped to their ankles.
Mat: "The funny thing is, a long time ago we had this song, and the chorus went: 'Give me a "B", "R", "E", "T", "T" You should never take yourself too seriously.' But the greatest line ever in a song is, 'My name is Prince/And l am funky. So few people can get away with that. This is lame, dull, and I love Snoop Doggy Dogg. I think he's got one of the few truly great voices, really hypnotic. You just listen to what he has to say. But he hangs around with Warren G now, doesn't he? This song's just as formulaic as British guitar music."
Neil: "Then again, a track like this isn't meant to be listened to in a white office in Camden. It's meant to be pumping out of a car, or as background music to people playing basketball. Snoop's virtually the only rapper I know to have made a really good album. Even Public Enemy were more of a singles band."
STEP INTO A WORLD
ALWAYS get the feeling that KRS can't quite keep up with his own pace. This single finds him tripping up on his lyrical shoelaces while a cleaning lady mumbles Blondie's "Rapture" in the background. Or something.
Neil: "That riff's straight from the theme to 'The Liver Birds', isn't it? This song just flogs the same idea to death."
Mat: "Both these songs are examples of the worst elements in East and West Coast rap. Nothing more to say really. Just not very good. (Gets up to visit the very tall pop stars' room. Returns)What's that? I can review either the toilet or the record? Had a good beat. The record. Come on!"
HALFWAY TO HEAVEN
EXACTLY where would that be then? Five-sixths of the way to heaven is heave. Suddenly, the fact Doctor Robert was a Blow Monkey makes far too much sense. The song? After Lewis Taylor and Jai, I haven't got much time for inferior advertising executive muzak.
Mat: "Well, I thought that was lovely. I mean, it's very tasteful, very adult, and I wouldn't usually like this sort of thing, but it's just a sweet, lovely tune. Those are really classic chords."
Neil: "It reminded me of Crowded House - a lot of things do. Maybe I've got some kind of disease where everything sounds like Crowded House. Ugh, no! It was far too twee for me, too inoffensive. Next."
IT'S feisty, for sure. A curly chorus and a sound spikier than a hedgehog on a bad hair day. Distorted, spit-in-face, sneery vocals and drums that fly like stones in a civil uprising. Promising.
Mat: "That was very good. It definitely gets title of the week."
Neil: "It'll appear in John Peel's Festive 50, no question. It's proof that you can make a proper punk record in 1997 without sounding incredibly ancient."
Mat: "I like Salamanda. Especially after The Offspring, yeah: They're the antidote to that kind of crap."
MM: It sounds like they're actually pretty happy to be in a band, for a change.
Neil: “Mmm, it's a really good thing to have that feeling come across. Like it. Like it a lot."