❉ A celebration of all things Suede, from The Drowners to the Blue Hour.
Suede are about to release Beautiful Ones: The Best of Suede 1992-2018, their third ‘Best Of’ compilation album. So what sets this one apart from the two previous ones? The first one, Singles, was a contractual filler released in 2003 when the band were at a crossroads, uncertain how to continue after the disappointing performance of their fifth LP A New Morning. As fate would have it, the band split shortly afterwards. In his second volume of memoirs, Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn, Brett Anderson detailed the decision made while filming a guest appearance on The Graham Norton Show. An untypically inauspicious end to one of the most dramatically brilliant and essential British bands of the 90s.
The second collection, The Best Of Suede, was released to coincide with their tentative re-union on 2010. A two-disc compilation, the first half was almost a repeat of 2003’s Singles album but thankfully they also included B-sides and choice LP tracks. Compiled by the band, the B-sides and the album tracks is where the true best of Suede is to be found. Thankfully since 2010 the rejuvenated band have seen one of the best creative rebirths in music, releasing a triptych of LPs arguably as good as their first three previously untouchable efforts.
Bloodsports (2013), in which they managed to recapture the heady rush of the early years and get things back on track as a dynamic creative force once again. Then with Night Thoughts (2016) and The Blue Hour (2018) they explored darker themes of paranoia, disillusion and regret juxtaposed with life-affirming modern Suede anthems, all in the format of a satisfying traditional album. Now, in the creative ascension, but unable to tour or record new music, the band have decided to celebrate all things Suede with this new all-encompassing compilation.
Once again compiled by the band this new compilation includes their many singes, selected B-sides and album tracks and a few highlights from the last ten years. Confusingly, there are two different track listings for this release.
For the 2CD and 2LP version, the singles, B-sides and album tracks are all mixed together in chronological order, rather than on separate discs, and as such makes a far more satisfying listening experience. Kicking off with all three tracks from their peerless first single, disc one takes on a journey through the Bernard Butler years, not forgetting to include two tracks from the Stay Together EP, before ending on a journey through some of the main features of Dog Man Star.
Disc 2 begins with Trash and continues a circuit through the many hit singles contained within Coming Up, a handful of the highlights from Head Music (although tellingly it omits the highest charting single Electricity in favour of album deep-cut Indian Strings), before sidelining A New Morning completely and moving straight on to three tracks from Bloodsports. Sadly Night Thoughts also only gets one track (but it’s a really good one) before moving on to three songs from The Blue Hour. Life is Golden, like Trash, has been adopted as an anthem for insatiable ones all over the world. The compilation ends fittingly on The Blue Hour’s finale, the Michael Landy-inspired Flytipping.
The 4CD media-book and 6LP boxset are naturally more expansive. The tracklisting reverts to a format similar to the 2010 Best Of Suede double album and is split between singles and B-sides/album tracks. For Discs 1 & 2 (LP sides 1-5, analogue fans) apart from Positivity and Attitude all the singles’ A-sides are present, including the essential full-length version (well, nearly full length, still missing the last few guitar cries at the end) of Stay Together (but sadly not the double A-side Together).
On discs 3 & 4 (sides 6-12) we get a tour through the deeper cuts. A New Morning is represented here only by Oceans. Suede have always been a band who like to reward their loyal followers by hiding their best songs away, and this one couldn’t have been much more hidden as a bonus track on the original release of A New Morning after several minutes of silence. Finally this gem is now been deservedly promoted to ‘best of’ status.
The packages themselves are up to the high standard we expect from Suede releases. The front cover captured the pivotal moment of their comeback gig at the Royal Albert Hall in March 2010 when the band and the fans fell in love with Suede again. To add to the collectable value the deluxe vinyl features a slightly different shot. Another first; the first time a band member has been on the front cover of a Suede LP. The album is a celebration of all things Suede; the band and the fans. Elsewhere there are photos which catalogue some of their more unusual merch (condoms, jewellery, headphones etc). The back cover of each version features a Proustian rush of Suede cassette spines sat in a row.
While we wait for studio album #9 to (hopefully) be recorded in 2021 these compilations are nice reminder that we Suede fans are to have our favourite band still making their best music. Hopefully in another 10 years we’ll be celebrating more great new music.
❉ Suede ‘Beautiful Ones’ is released 9 October 2020 from Demon Music Group as a 2CD and 2LP best of, 56-track 4CD box set, and a very limited 6LP vinyl box set edition.
❉ Leo Collett is a contributor to We Are Cult and a member of indie pop group The Thought Clouds (an indie pop group). He lives in Exeter.