What To Do With All The Half-Finished Tracks Music Production Dog Man Star (1994)

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Dog Man Star (1994)

We competed with the great records of the past” reflected Brett Anderson in 2011; “That’s what we had to prove with this. I tried to write without any boundaries.” An interesting theory, given that their self-titled debut was the most exciting British rock album since ‘The Queen is Dead’, but ever the perfectionists, Suede teamed up to write their best work – and the one that subsequently destroyed the The relationship between the main writers of the band!

Suede started Britpop and subsequently came to hate the genre, no less than Suede’s guitarist and co-writer Bernard Butler. Moving away from the genre the band saw as a “horribly warped Carry On movie,” songwriters Butler and Anderson turned to the darker albums of Lou Reed and Kate Bush, Anderson taking solace in Scott Walker, Butler listening to The Righteous Brothers. Anderson consuming tab after tab, psychedelic most prevalent in Monroe’s ode to “Heroine” and the pleasant Floydian “Asphalt World.” Anderson’s liberal drug use irritated Butler (Butler detested his slave-like treatment for his reluctance to party) and the two recorded the album growing increasingly distant. from which Lennon/McCartney ever strayed. Butler took issue with Ed Buller’s production (Butler was a more than capable engineer himself) and insisted the others fire Buller and allow Butler to complete the album; Anderson, wary of Butler, refused. Butler left the band before the album was finished , many of his guitar parts were replaced by session musicians (Butler does not play on ‘The Power’, unfortunately, the album’s weakest track) and the band toured the album with seventeen-year-old Richard Oakes as guitarist (a role he still holds today).

But in the trend of hard albums a la ‘The White Album’ and ‘Kid A’, ‘Dog’ is better for its dark politics behind the scenes, Suede playing the same songs together, but not all playing the same music. Butler (the finest indie guitarist of his generation, apart from Graham Cookson) infuses the album with his own touch, his bluesy charge and his spiritual spell visible in his playing, the seventies power that greeted McCalmont Butler’s ‘Yes’ here at its inception. ‘New Genesis’ came closest to a seventies rocker, messy with drums, aggressive with guitars, a statement of musical social intent. Gentle piano playing compliments Anderson’s baritone excellence on ‘The 2 Of Us’, vocals as fine as his Bowie falsetto glow heard on the band’s biggest single ‘Animal Niterate’. Where “Suede” (1993) had optimism, “Dog” feels barren, helpless, miserable like a Becktian play; “Lying in my bed/Watching my mistakes” Anderson echoes on a pained voice, the album’s process in its true entirety.

Doom and gloom is, thankfully absent, from the album’s most obvious commercial track ‘The Wild Ones’ (still Anderson’s favorite Suede song). Shades of Phil Spector surround his production, Anderson embraces a demanding and captivating voice twenty odd years after its release. ‘We Are The Pigs’ spiraled into Roger McGinn, but exploded into an angrier song than anything heard since John Lydon called himself the Antichrist (Simon Gilbert’s finest hour as a drummer, sharp, but loud, reminiscent of Mike G Smith’s Weiss, who preceded Gilbert as a suede drummer). ‘Black Or Blue’ brought forth shades of esoteric Lennon, ‘This Hollywood Life’ is more glamorous than glam, closer to ‘Still Life’, a beautiful ode to the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’.

Behemoth ‘This Asphalt World’ proved the band’s towering achievement, a massive nine-minute track (cut from twenty minutes, to Butler’s utter disdain), but one that stretched the listener like prog classics ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ once did . Gender irrelevant in its writing, stunning in its playing, ‘Asphalt’ flashed a sideline riff as Anderson delivers the best performance of his career. The greatest Suede song the radio never played, ‘Asphalt’ took the band’s core influences, shook them up and beat them up.

Despite the album’s grandiosity, audacity and genius, it failed to generate the response that ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘Parklife’ did, a critical triumph, not a commercial vehicle. But neither ‘Berlin’, ‘Tusk’, ‘Stormcook’, ‘The Second Queen’ nor ‘The Dreamers’, each was the title jewels of their writers, each a treasure for avid listeners, each a cult for ardent followers seeking to avoid. the mainstream. And in this family of non-rhythmic brilliance, the ‘dog man star’ sits very comfortably.

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