Monday, 4 February 2013

Stay Together

(A little about fan loyalty in music, a lot about Suede)

In recent years, the thing in music that has got me most excited is bands of my youth returning. These fall into two categories – previously successful bands looking for one last (pay-)day in the sun (Pulp, Blur); and bands trying to make a better fist of it second time round (Ultrasound, Marion). Whilst these comebacks gave me the chance to hear songs (such as this and this) live that I never thought would, they also raise the question of loyalty. How loyal should you, as a fan, stay to a band once their time is up?

I find it hard to give up on bands that are well past their sell-by date (hell, I even bought the Manics’ last album because I felt sorry for it when I saw it in the sales, even though I’d already heard it and knew it was terrible). It’s not as if I even believe that these bands have it in them to make one last great album. In fact I sympathise with their plight; once you’ve written 50+ songs, what else is there to write about?

There’s one particular back-from-the-dead band that I’m having issues with at the moment – Suede. I love Suede. Or should I say, I loved Suede. I didn’t miss them for a second when they split up, and I fulfilled my role as ‘a loyal fan’ by buying all of their re-released deluxe albums a couple of years ago. And whilst I’ll duly oblige and get their new album too, I refuse to get excited about it.

My main problem is I don’t know why they’ve made a new album. They'd already gone some way to restoring their legacy by reuniting for a series of triumphant gigs and festival appearances. And if it was about exorcising the demon that was the woeful ‘A New Morning’, well The Tears’ fine album had already done that for me. It clearly hadn’t done so for Brett though.

When they reunited for those live performances, Brett said they would only record another album if it was good. And yet there was already a grim inevitability that they would deem their latest efforts to be ‘good’ enough, before they’d even stepped into a studio.

I’m worried that they decided to lead with ‘Barriers’. It mimicks U2’s stadium-pandering ‘big song’ template (not least the chiming guitars and group backing vocals), which doesn’t bode well. I’m not even going to comment on the lyrics. I guess the only interesting thing to say about it is that it’s not a retreading of ‘Dog Man Star’s’ billowing grandiosity or ‘Coming Up’s disposable pop. Perhaps they are fulfilling some long-held artistic ambition with their new album, but it’s just as likely that they’ll fall apart again afterwards.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll still buy the album. But maybe I’m starting to break free of the shackles of fan loyalty; for there are not one but two deluxe box set versions available, and I won’t be getting either of them. Screw you Suede; I win.

- Somik

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