You Better You Brett

Steve Sutherland

10 February 1996

NME

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Submitted by: Jane Marshall

YOU BETTER YOU BRETT

NINE SONGS, all new, no hits, no encore. This is how Suede kick into their most important year, the year that will prove whether they can duke it out with the big boys or whether they merely served as Britpop John The Baptists, crying in the wilderness, clearing the way for the Manc and Essex Messiahs.

Nine new songs, works in progress, paraded without much fanfare before the faithful. This is Suede's annual fanclub-only show, the band, on a break from the studio, a little ring rusty.

This is meant to be an exhibition bout, a stroll through the paces on their own terms. But the tension's still here, the

burden of proof so tangible that it would break the back of a lesser band. And last year it nearly did for Suede. Nearly...

Their last London shows were sorry spectacles, Brett buckling under the pressure to conform, brutish and overbearing in his bid to compete in the 'barrerboy' stakes. All that "'Ere we f-in'

go" malarkey seemed a betrayal of all that was fine and aloof, all that was special about the Suede of 'Pantomime Horse'. All that machismo shit. He was dragging the band into someone else's agenda and it wasn't a pretty sight.

Then came Phoenix and, there in the rain, Suede regained their confidence, Brett no longer overcompensating for the inexperienced Richard Oakes, no longer sulking at being written off. Brett working the songs, not off the injustice. Brett triumphant.

And tonight Suede set out their stall. No Bernard Butler songs. A set that says, "No need". Then there's the new member Neil, sulky, skinny and dead-eyed as a fashion model, hands on hips, the occasional backing vocal, a pouty threat from A Clockwork Orange; an occasional pianist, an immobile show-stealer. Brett sweats but the sighs are for Neil. And those nine new songs.

'She' is, um, Suedeish, something for Richard to headbang to, nowt to write home about. Better is 'Dead Leg', otherwise known as 'The Beautiful Ones', with a chorus to die for. 'Together' we already know as a B-side but it's grown into an anthem à la 'We Are The Pigs'. 'Lovely Day' is introduced as, "a slow one" and indeed it is, swooning and gorgeous but, on this one hearing, lacking Suede's usual sarky bite.

'By The Sea' we heard at Phoenix and it's classic, Richard pumping the keyboards as Brett loses his head in falsetto reverie. "Film Star' is pretty much T. Rex revamped. It's a tad clumsy, fodder for those who mourn Bernard Butler and scoff that Oakes is an inferior clone. Certainly he lacks the finesse of his predecessor. He is an unremarkable guitarist who sometimes just fills in space and time with frenetic noise. He needs to learn pprecision and calm, but you can sense it is coming. 'Lazy' is druggy and cute and wouldn't be out of place on the Trainspotting soundtrack. It goes: "You and me/All we want to be/ls lazy," and Brett makes it sound simultaneously sinister and luxuriant. 'Saturday Night' is another Suede urban epic, a chip off the old council block where relationships slide into habits and habits slip into hate and despair. The mighty 'Young Men' closes the set, a massive, chaotic, svelte chanting mess. It's destined for a B-side, another of those golden Suede mistakes that needs rescuing, like 'My Insatiable One' and 'Killing Of A Flash Boy'.

Tonight Suede achieve a lot. They test new songs, they prove they've still got it and they find out they're still loved. Save them a cloud in Britpop heaven.

Steve Sutherland