Why I like… Coming Up by Suede

 

Coming Up was seen as a turning point for Suede in a multitude of ways. It was their first album after the departure of guitarist Bernard Butler and, instead of mourning his loss, they brought a teenage guitarist into their ranks and went into the studio with a much changed worldview. Their previous album, Dog Man Star, garnered much acclaim for being as dense and layered as it was melancholic, perhaps because it was in the Butler-era of Suede – an era from which the band were moving on.

What came from this altered line-up were 10 slices of some of the best guitar pop of the 1990’s, but with music and lyrics that were unmistakeably by Suede. Singles like Trash and Filmstar still had the sexy swagger and glam-indebted guitar lines that typified the band but with a new-found sense of joy and positivity – a trait the band had been frustratingly short on previously. And that isn’t to say that Coming Up is bubblegum or sickly sweet either. No, not at all. By the Sea is just as moody and melodramatic as anything on Dog Man Star, and the glorious two-song suite of Picnic by the Motorway and The Chemistry Between Us is bittersweet like only Brett Anderson can do, with vivid imagery of what love in 90’s London is really like – all urban chaos and drug abuse. This grim reality unfolds into besotted optimism, however, in the gorgeous album ender Saturday Night, with its pretty arpeggiated chords and love-struck lyrics.

It’s everything good about Suede, although the track that takes this to an even greater level is Beautiful Ones – it’s like the band’s essence has been distilled into one spectacular sub-four minute buzz. Richard Oakes’ guitar sounds and plays like it came straight out of the glam movement of the 70’s, the rhythm section bubbles and bounces in the background and Brett Anderson gives a frank portrayal of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – ‘Oh, high on diesel and gasoline / psycho for drum machine / shaking their bits to the hits’ – although from a much more cynical viewpoint than is immediately obvious from the upbeat and exuberant delivery of the lyrics. This is quite an apt occurrence, really, considering that this album was proving that the band had now found the perfect combination of melodrama and celebrating the joys of being young. Sums up the 90’s pretty well, really…