18 January 2006

Overlooked Albums from the 90's - #15

Dog Man Star by Suede

I've mentioned before on this site how I happened to find out about Suede for the very first time. I was a major Smiths fan in search of the next Smiths. Suede was labeled as such and their glam rock androgeny only helped fuel my interest in the band. Much like The Smiths, Suede released a handful of successful (in the UK) singles off of a classic debut album and thus established their lead guitar/vocalist song writing duo as the next best since Morrissey/Marr. Dog Man Star was Suede's ambitious follow up album that simultaneously proved that they should be taken very seriously and ended up breaking apart the outstanding song writing duo which formed the core of the band.

My personal experience with this album is rather extensive. Aside from listening to it over and over (and over) I got to see the band live twice in support of Dog Man Star (which is quite a feat given that I lived in Raleigh, NC at the time). The first time I got to see them was at the Masquerade in Atlanta on the 24th of February, 1995. They were my favorite active band at the time so you can imagine I was a bit excited for the show. Turns out it wasn't even sold out and I got to stand pretty close to the stage in that small venue. Then, after the show was over, it was announced that you could go backstage and MEET THE BAND if you purchased a copy of Dog Man Star at the merchandise table. I bought a(nother) copy of this album and got to hang out backstage with Suede for ten minutes or so. They were eating pizza and drinking Red Stripes, very friendly and talkative, and I got autographs from everyone in the band. But that wasn't the only chance I was to have to see them live in 1995. It also happened that I was visiting London at the same time as their scheduled concert at The Royal Albert Hall on the 21st of May. I got tickets to this concert as well and was amazed to see the difference in atmosphere and crowd response. This show was a large venue concert extraordinaire: the tickets were sold out, the crowd was singing along, and there was even a laser light show. Throughout both of these vastly different/equally outstanding shows, Dog Man Star provided the framework for everything.

AllMusic says:

"Instead of following though on the Bowie-esque glam stomps of their debut, Suede concentrated on their darker, more melodramatic tendencies on their ambitious second album, Dog Man Star. By all accounts, the recording of Dog Man Star was plagued with difficulties -- Brett Anderson wrote the lyrics in a druggy haze while sequestered in a secluded Victorian mansion, while Bernard Butler left before the album was completed -- which makes its singular vision all the more remarkable. Lacking any rocker on the level of "The Drowners" or "Metal Mickey" -- only the crunching "This Hollywood Life" comes close -- Dog Man Star is a self-indulgent and pretentious album of dark, string-drenched epics. But Suede are one of the few bands who wear pretensions well, and after a few listens, the album becomes thoroughly compelling. Nearly every song on the record is hazy, feverish, and heartbroken, and even the rockers have an insular, paranoid tenor that heightens the album's melancholy. The whole record would have collapsed underneath its own intentions if Butler's compositional skills weren't so subtly nuanced and if Anderson's grandiose poetry wasn't so strangely affecting. As it stands, Dog Man Star is a strangely seductive record, filled with remarkable musical peaks, from the Bowie-esque stomp of "New Generation" to the stately ballads "The Wild Ones" and "Still Life," which are both reminiscent of Scott Walker. And while Suede may choose to wear their influences on their sleeve, they synthesize them in a totally original way, making Dog Man Star a singularly tragic and romantic album."
Update: I just found a good article on Stylus from 2003. For further Dog Man Star related reading click HERE.

Listen:
  • "We Are The Pigs"
  • "The Wild Ones"
  • "New Generation"
Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
#13 - Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes
#14 - Blank-Wave Arcade by The Faint

if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list

Another site does their own "Overlooked of the 90's":
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s

11 comments:

marathonpacks said...

Overlooked? Really?

Matt said...

to me - yep. would you like me to explain?

Dave said...

No wonder I like your blog...
Raleighwood in the hiz..ok I'm not that cool...house.
Fav so far...Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Great album and great live show (sometime in the early 90's at The Boathouse in Va Beach)
sorry if this isn't in the right place...i'm also lazy.

radio tinman said...

hands down one of the best albums ever! if only they still made them this good. awesome post.

Bonnie said...

Oh man, I love Suede. I was lucky enough to see them four times over the course of their career, and I caught The Tears in Dublin this Summer at the Oxegen festival. It's just not the same though... thanks for posting this. :D It made my morning.

marathonpacks said...

It's just that your original rationale, on the first post, was "So, let's take a look at some albums that don't seem to get much attention...YET."...which indicates that you're saying these albums have been overlooked by everyone--slipping under the radar of society at large, instead of "these are records that I missed the first time around".

DMS was huge when it came out, especially across the ocean, where they were deified (OK, with the UK press that doesn't take much). It's a great album, but I remember it getting a lot more ink that you give it credit for. I'd have to put Harmacy, The Faint and Ned's Atomic in that category, too. Sure, they didn't get major radio love, but they still got a lot of press.

These don't seem to gibe with the others on the list--which definitely have a more "cultish" status, especially #4-8.

Matt said...

Well you make some good points. First of all my definition of "overlooked" tends to morph from week to week so I can pick the albums I want to, but at the same time I don't think it's a stretch to call an album such as this one (or any of the others so far - this goes for all of them) "overlooked" when you consider how it is regarded compared to other albums released in the 90's and when compared to the album released by the artist in question that most people consider to be their best.

In fact, I'd been wondering when someone was going to question one of these albums and their 'overlooked-ness'.

Here's the way I see it:
- most people I know, whose musical opinion I value, do not own this album; thus it's overlooked by those i know.
- generally I feel that the Suede album which gets the most praise and attention is their debut (allmusic for example rates it 1/2 star higher than Dog Man Star); thus it's overlooked in terms of the band's own catalog in favor of their 1st album.
- it's not on Pitchfork's list of top 100 albums of the 90s, nor is it on Rolling Stone's top 500 albums list, nor is it on Q magazine's recently published readers top 100 list...and it's not on the marathonpacks top 50 of the 90's list either! ;)
- since it's hard to find many worthwhile best of the 90's lists a better indication may be to look at the submitted lists of the individual writers from Pitchfork (think whatever you want about Pitchfork, their writers know a bit about music). from those lists only THREE out of TWENTY people even had Dog Man Star in their top 100 albums of the 90's - 1 person had it at #97, 1 at #89, 1 at #24.
- lastly, albums from Suede's peers (Blur, Pulp, Oasis) all have got heaps more praise on both sides of the Atlantic and have gotten even more since; thus, in terms of 90's brit pop...yes it is indeed underrated and overlooked.

Ultimately it all depends upon your point of view but mine is that this album (and all chosen for this feature thus far) has not gotten the attention it deserves. And that, as ambiguous as it is, is probably the real measure of what I include in this feature.

marathonpacks said...

Well, not to belabor (or belabour) a point here, but:

I don't really see pitchfork, as well-regarded as it is, being an arbiter of popularity (which I'm assuming we can agree is the opposite of "overlooked-ness"), but more of an idiosyncratic melange of highly opinionated critics that have more of an eye toward an album's impact on current music than its individual merits. And, personally, I consider allmusic guide a handy reference, but as for their opinions on music, meh. The old 5-star ranking leaves a lot to be desired, no?

And in terms of being ignored in relation to other Brit-Pop? Hmmm...there are plenty of bands I'd put in that category (Gene being one), but even the feted allmusic guide writes:

"Suede kick started the Britpop revolution of the '90s, bringing English indie pop/rock music away from the swirling layers of shoegazing and dance-pop fusions of Madchester"

That being said, I really like this site, and really dig your opinions on music. Keep fightin' the good fight!

Matt said...

Now...don't go naming bands that might very well appear in future 'overlooked' features thus spoiling it for the others!

Unfortunately I can't find many other good resources online for comprehensive reviews and opinions and so I'm stuck with P-fork and AllMusic, neither of which is really a personal favorite. And what I'd really mean to say about an album like this one is that while it may have sold a lot of copies it wasn't, and isn't today, regarded (in my opinion) as highly as it should be. So perhaps looking at the lists of people who are looking back at the 90's with a bit of perspective gives insight as to what the legacy of the albums in my 'overlooked' feature is/will be. To me when I read people discuss, or list, their tops of the 90's I'm like "hey, don't go forgetting about some of these albums".

Anyway, this could become a very circular discussion, but I like talking about the music I like with someone who knows their stuff - and thanks for the kind words. I enjoy your site as well, was reading it earlier today wondering why it's not on my links here. Fixing that soon! By the way, any suggestions for overlooked albums for this list are always welcome - I don't want to get to the point where I'm here writing about Nevermind and trying to defend THAT as being overlooked!

marathonpacks said...

Well, thanks for dealing with my pickiness. Sometimes I feel a tangent coming on, and there's nothing I can do to stop it...

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