❉ Twenty years on, we look back on Suede’s 1996 ‘comeback’ album Coming Up, and geek out over the deluxe special edition from Demon Music Group that hits the shelves today.
Suede’s ‘Coming Up’ is 20 years old this year. Not many bands get the chance to record a ‘second debut’, but ‘Coming Up’ is precisely that. For Suede the uncharacteristically upbeat mood of the LP would accidentally sync with the buoyant mood of the Britpop movement they accidentally created (and quickly disowned) in 1992, and would prove to be their commercial peak.
The roots of ‘Coming Up’ were not, on paper, given the most auspicious start; Two years prior to the release of ‘Coming Up’, stepping in to fill Bernard Butler’s guitar-strap was the not-quite-18-yet Richard Oakes. His first job was to promote Dog Man Star, an LP he hadn’t made. Before the poor fella had recorded a note of music he had the dubious honour of miming to Butler’s performances on Top Of The Pops, followed by interviews, photoshoots & videoshoots. Then he was obliged to touring the world for over a 6 month period playing someone else’s guitar parts, and this was all to promote a record he hadn’t played on. He played Butler’s parts perfectly, and the gigs were great, but the highlight was often when he played the only Anderson/Oakes original from the latter half of the tour.
New Generation B-Side Together was the first example of the Anderson/Oakes songwriting partnership and a huge relief for a fan like me. Oakes’ influences were noted as being a lot more punk orientated, this fed through the prism of Brett’s vision give Together the kind of energy Suede hardly matched since Metal Mickey. The first studio recordings of this interim Suede line-up (Anderson, Oakes, Osman & Gilbert) are captured on the exclusive 10” which comes with Limited Edition version of this box set. The 10” includes the non-Butler Dog Man Star era B-sides Asda Town, Together & Bentswood Boys (the 1995 studio recording of Just A Girl, as featured on the Attitude CD Single, could’ve been a nice addition too I think).
For the obsessive fan the waiting time between Together (30/01/1995) and Trash (29/07/1996) felt huge, with only a cover version of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding (released on the HELP CD) and a Brett backing vocal on Strangelove’s She’s Everywhere (previewed on a free cover mount Q Magazine CD) to fill the gap. But then there was also the Hanover Grand fanclub gig in January 1996 where we first heard the songs which would make up the bulk of ‘Coming Up’ and also meet for the first time Suede’s other new member. The addition of Neil Codling (the mind of Brian Eno, the looks of John Taylor and the stage mannerisms of Ron Mael) was the perfect fit, and changed the group dynamic in a positive way so it was no longer about Richard Oakes replacing Bernard Butler and felt more like a new band.
‘Coming Up’ was recorded over a nine-month period (longer than the first two LPs combined) working with their regular producer Ed Buller again. On ‘Coming Up’ Suede made a conscious effort to channel the pure-pop aesthetic of T.Rex’s ‘The Slider’ & ‘Tanx’ LPs. Fans of Bolan’s ‘The Slider’ will know that it hits the ground running with Metal Guru, with ‘Coming Up’ the proceedings kick off in a similar fashion with Trash.
The first two Suede LPs reported the disaffected, ‘Coming Up’ celebrates it. It’s the strangest of things; an upbeat Suede LP. We have three songs (Trash, Filmstar, Lazy) before we get a song that wasn’t a single. By The Sea had the honour of being the first ‘Coming Up’ song to be played live when it was played at Phoenix Festival in 1995. The effervescent glam-stomp of She closes the first half (this was briefly considered to be the first single, there were even t-shirts made).
Beautiful Ones showcases Richard Oakes’ talents showing him to be a distinct guitarist-hero in his own right. Starcrazy, the first of two Codling co-writes is gloriously silly, Picnic By The Motorway has a Scarfolk air of menace about it, the second Codling co-write The Chemistry Between Us sounds lush, it actually sounds like the image and colour scheme used for the LP cover. And finally Saturday Night puts you on the night-bus home. Just ten songs in total of pop-perfection and we’re done.
Dave Bascombe’s mixes are so precise and economic; on headphones they are reminiscent of Bolan’s Sound Pit from ‘Zinc Alloy’. You can hear the amount of effort and attention to detail that went into ‘Coming Up’. Yet not a single note, in the many layers of the mix, could be considered wasted or indulgent.
But as this was the mid-nineties, and formatting was king, we get four new tracks spread across the two CD singles for most of the 5 singles released from ‘Coming Up’. Suede, like The Smiths, are one of the greatest b-side bands ever. With disc 2 of this set we get a whole other LP of mostly good quality songs were produced to promote this LP.
The B-sides allow the tight-ship of ‘Coming Up’ to loosen a bit more and explore the dynamics of this new band. Future live favourite Europe Is Our Playground gave Mat Osman his first co-write. Another first with the first non-Brett lead vocal on Digging A Hole, a charming Neil Codling solo track. Young Men was very nearly a ‘Coming Up’ LP track and was also premiered at the Phoenix Festival 1995 performance. Sam (like Bolan’s Telegram namesake “you’re my main man”) and Have You Ever Been This Low? date back from 1995 when the four-piece Suede were trying to create new B-sides for a potential The Power single.
There’s ballads in the classic Suede mould like Another No One and This Time. Then there’s more pop songs like Every Monday Morning Comes and Money, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first half of ‘Coming Up’. Unfortunately by the end Suede succumb to more filler material like the band-workout of Feel and Graffiti Women (but we’ll let them off considering the quality of their production rate so far for this LP).
So, what’s the difference between this 20th Anniversary set and 2011’s excellent 2CD/1DVD set?
Well, quite a lot. This new set features ALL the (studio based) b-sides from the ‘Coming Up’ singles. Neil Codling’s solo effort Digging A Hole is included this time (it was omitted in 2011 due to time constraints). Although Feel is still edited (for timing reasons) but that’s no great loss. So kudos to the band and Edsel for not making us buy another boxset to get a couple extra songs (as is the modern trend). There are 2CDs and 1 DVD of previously unreleased material here, and apart from the b-sides, none of the bonuses from 2011 are duplicated.
Disc 3, intentionally or not, copies Edsel’s deluxe T.Rex format and offers an alternative version of ‘Coming Up’ made up of previously unreleased demos and monitor mixes. The 2011 edition also featured demos but none of them are repeated here.
Disc 4 is a previously unreleased concert from 1996 which covers most of the LP and two of its B-sides, plus two obligatory Anderson/Butler crowd pleasers. Suede live is always an exhilarating experience so this live LP is a welcome addition capturing the confident ‘Coming Up’ band in full flight.
There is nothing on the DVD repeated from the 2011 set. We get a collection of BBC TV appearances and a brand new band interview conducted by Pete Paphides (obviously a friend of the band as he also did the interviews for the 2013 complete album boxset and was behind an excellent BBC documentary about the making of Dog Man Star).
So, what’s missing?
Suede were so productive at this period one could compile a whole other disc of officially released rarities from back in the day. What kind of Suede obsessive would do this? Oh, alright then, here we go:
- By The Sea (demo) Beautiful Ones cassette single
- Lazy (demo) Childline CD & See You In The Next Life fanclub CD
- She (demo) ‘Gratis Hits’ cassette – Select Magazine
- Filmstar (demo) ‘Vroom’ CD – Select Magazine + Filmstar cassette single
- Saturday Night (demo) Saturday Night CD single
- By The Sea (2 Meter Session 21/08/1996) Best of the 2 meter Sessions – Dutch compilation CD
- Picnic By The Motorway (live in Kilburn 11/10/1996) Saturday Night cassette single
- Rent (live at the Roundhouse 15/12/1996 with Neil Tennant) Filmstar single CD2
- Saturday Night (live at the Roundhouse 15/12/1996 with Neil Tennant) Filmstar single CD2
- Lazy (live in LA, El Rey Theatre, 22/05/1997) Club Bang Rarities 1 – Promo CD
- Another No-One (live in LA, El Rey Theatre, 22/05/1997) NME Exclusives CD
- Saturday Night (live radio session 1996) Steve Lamacq’s Bootleg Session – Melody Maker cassette
- Europe Is Our Playground (Alternative Mix) Melody Maker ‘The Basement Tapes Volume 2’ cassette
- We’re So Disco – Attitude CD Single
Other tracks not mopped up by the 2011 or 2016 releases include Shipbuilding from the Warchild HELP CD, the Just A Girl studio version from the Attitude CD single and the ‘Suede Live’ 6 track fanclub CD (which was also a 2nd disc on some import versions of ‘Coming Up’ released in 1996). Not that this list is in any way a criticism of the set, the fact we’ve had two deluxe versions of this LP so far and all this extra material is amazing.
There are also few BBC recordings from this period too. But I’m hoping we’ll get a ‘Suede at the BBC’ boxset to cover that lot one day. What do you think Edsel?
In addition to the 4CD/1DVD or the limited 4CD/1DVD + 10” anniversary editions of ‘Coming Up’ Edsel are also issuing a nice double yellow vinyl edition featuring the LP and a smattering of B-sides on the second disc.
Listening to ‘Coming Up’ today it sounds as fresh and vital as ever, it sounds like a new band. Even if you already have the deluxe 2011 edition this anniversary edition is well worth getting if you remain as obsessed about the band as I do.
❉ Suede: ‘Coming Up’ 20th Anniversary Edition was released as a five-disc set on 30 September 2016 by Demon Music Group. A double gatefold yellow vinyl edition is also available. A special limited edition (500 copies) containing a special three-track 10″ single is also available exclusively via Amazon.