Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Ship Rediscovery: Suede - Stay Together EP

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

I first set foot in England at age 19. Even back then, Suede was one of the bands I considered to be quintessentially English. Their interpretation of David Bowie-influenced glam along with a flair for sonic theatrics, not to mention Brett Anderson's signature vocals, slightly nasal and very much peacock preening, mixed seamlessly with the seedy vibe that felt so very London. The band's 1994 effort Stay Together EP is one of my favorites of Suede's entire recorded works, and to me encapsulates their aesthetic perfectly.

The EP gets underway with an edited version of the titular "Stay Together," a sweeping, grandiose epic even edited down. As with much of Suede's music, it's gloriously indulgent and romantic in a gray, grimly modern way. Anderson has always had a way with words, painting scenes of an idealized, though flawed, version of modern England. "Stay together," goes the chorus, "two hearts under the skyscrapers." With the grandness of the music behind him, Anderson's "nuclear night" seems somehow idyllic. "The Living Dead" comes next, an acoustic (mostly) song strummed woefully in the name of a lover mourning the loss of his beloved to heroin use. "Nothing here works but your works/and I mean it/I have to leave," bemoans Anderson sadly. Love, loss, and chemicals are all common themes that pop up all over Suede records, but "The Living Dead" is one of their finest songs to deal with all three.

My favorite song on the EP has always been "My Dark Star," another of those songs emphasizing the grandiose dramatics of Suede's sound. It's such a gorgeous song, made of the stuff of worldly young men bringing exotic, intoxicating noise to the London scene. I think it's some of Bernard Butler's best guitar work, all heady and electrifying, and given plenty of room to run. I still find it nothing short of electrifying. "Dolly" is more of the older Suede sound, more aggressive and more rock, leaving the drama behind but still sounding like no one else. "High Rising" is back to the theatre, and then comes the unedited version of "Stay Together," eight and a half minutes that will quite possibly make you see stars. Well, it has that effect on me, anyway.

I absolutely adore the sexy, nouveau glam sound Suede was blazing forth back in the mid-90s, and to get yourself acquainted there's nothing better than the Stay Together EP. Their arch Englishness, along with their stage-ready excesses, collided perfectly on these six songs, and I consider it a must-listen.

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