Teenage Fan Club
22 October 1994
Submitted by: Inge Klinkers
TEENAGE FAN CLUB
‘Richard Oakes smiles the blushing, “Shut up or I’ll kill you” smile of an adolescent who is told by an elderly aunt, "Haven't you grown? Are you courting yet’"
THE phone rings at 6pm, and no, of course I haven't got anything better to do this evening.
I've been thinking lately about all the people who don't adore Suede. (You know, retarded crusties, grunge ass-kissers and techno trainspotters). Trying to empathise with their reasons. Something to do with Brett's over-ambition. Brett's naked desire to become a living effigy. Brett's ability to take the detritus of reality and turn every instant into a Fellini fantasia, rather than fetishise down-to-earthness (and thereby let the shit of living clasp you to the gutter by the ankles). Brett's... well, I'm sorry to stretch the point... but Brett's girliness. People who would kill this flash boy, "sussed", "on-the-level" types who consider Brett "a f***ing wanker”. Most of my best friends are "f***ing wankers".
These people, in my professional, objective, journalistic opinion, are scum. But I still need something positive to cling to. Some reason why I'm different, why I implicitly love Suede. Let's return to that phrase "over-ambition". Would I be stating the totally f***ing obvious here if I insisted that can never be a bad thing? By now, you've heard "Dog Man Star", a record so gloriously, ludicrously over-ambitious that, even at its most modest, it sounds like The Beatles when they got weird, then moves up via Queen to - honestly - Andrew Lloyd Webber (one day, Brett will burst into Elaine Paige's "Memory", and you'll think "that Price bloke was right").
Nothing, however, prepared me for this - the "secret" fan club party in a tinsel dungeon underneath the Central London YMCA, and, as everyone knows, Richard Oakes' first UK appearance. The lights go down, and Brett - the cocky f***er - slips his own "Introducing The Band" on the CD player. Then someone flips the switch marked "Hysteria".
On they saunter, with the comedy boogie-woogie of "This Hollywood Life" - by no means one of the best songs on the LP - and it takes a superhuman effort to calm down, stand back, remind myself that this is just pop music. Within seconds, Brett's immaculately coiffed hair has been shaken into a just-woken-up mess, so that all you can see is those teeth, two matching gold hoops in his ears (after two songs they're gone) and the glint of a ring on his fingers (a present from his mother - after three, that's been snatched as well). Tonight, Brett is Brett in excelsis, a hotwired mannequin in a rib-hugging black T-shirt, butt wiggling, hands clapping, dropping Es, dropping Hs. Tonight, Suede are the wild ones alright. Even Mat Osman, with his new Gallon Drunk hairdo, finds time to interrupt his curious rocking-from-side-to-side bass stance, momentarily looking less like a giant animatronic moose, and laugh at it all.
After four songs, it's too much for the front row. They want a formal introduction. "Richard! Richard! Richard!" Brett takes the hint. "This is Richard. He's one of us. He's my mate!" Richard Oakes smiles the blushing, "Shut up or I'll kill you" smile of an adolescent who is told by an elderly aunt, "Haven't you grown? Are you courting yet?" at a Christmas gathering. I swear he kickstarts the next song early just to put an end to it all.
To say that Richard doesn't have Bernard Butler's hip-swinging, hair-threshing style would be unfair. But, as yet, he has no discernible style of his own. It'll come. As it is, he spends tonight with his face 100 per cent veiled by his fringe, crouched over his fretboard, concentrating on a note-perfect replication of the Anderson/Butler back catalogue. The boy done good, and what he does to the start of "Animal Nitrate" is sexier than we had any right to expect... which, paradoxically, reinforces the fact that Richard Oakes is the extremely fortunate inheritor of a matchless two LPs' worth of songs. This buys him time - two years, perhaps - before he has to prove himself as a songwriter. For the moment, he's just a smack-in-the-mouth brilliant guitarist. And Suede are "just" the crown jewels in the palace of pop.
It's a painfully short, nouvelle cuisine kind of set: the more irresistibly singalong cuts from the LP ("Heroine"), the occasional oldie ("So Young"), and possibly the coolest B-side of the Nineties (the stop-start switchblade jitter of "Killing Of A Flash Boy"), and Brett's gone, shouting over the hilariously meta-symphonic strains of "Still Life". Something about "The best thing in the world ever". And, hey, I know a full stop when I see one.