Tuesday, October 7, 2014

dog man star

Suede imploded with the gravity of this dense and dramatic dark star.  The band had spawned a Britpop movement with their eponymous debut; but the death of guitarist Bernard Butler's father delayed the start of their US tour with The Cranberries.  It was on this tour that Butler took to travelling with the other band to avoid the heavy drug use of his own bandmates.  Other tensions arose as the band was forced to adopt the name The London Suede due to a lawsuit from an American lounge singer.  At one point in the tour the success of their opening band in the US overshadowed their own and they were forced to open for The Cranberries.  The rest of the dates were cancelled.  In the meantime, they released the single 'Stay Together' which became their biggest success yet, peaking at number three on the UK pop chart.  

Back in England, singer and lyricist Brett Anderson hid away in a Victorian mansion in North London where he worked on a new vision under the influence of psychedelic drugs:   "We wrote about drama and sex, poverty and passion:  subjects that hadn't been touched in pop music for years and years. I wanted as many people as possible to hear it and, fortunately, I just happened to be a larger-than-life figure, which undoubtedly helped the process. I'm sure a lot of our detractors were convinced it was all contrived, but it was never a mask. I wasn't able to switch between caricatures. This was me. Basically, I was a very strange human being...We absolutely didn't want to celebrate Jimi Hendrix or The Beach Boys or any American.  Instead, we wanted to pick over the minutiae of British life, and celebrate it. I don't think anybody could deny that we pretty much kicked off what became Britpop, and for a very limited time we were proud of that ...  I had always been fascinated by suburbia and I liked to throw these twisted references to small-town British life into songs. This was before we had that horrible term Britpop. We were never really at the party, and Britpop was like a big party: people slapping one another on the back and getting beery and jingoistic. We could not have been more uninterested in that whole boozy, cartoon-like, fake working-class thing. As soon as we became aware of it, we went away and wrote Dog Man Star. You could not find a less Britpop record. It's tortured, epic, extremely sexual and personal. None of those things apply to Britpop ... We wanted to tap into something entirely different...I was doing an awful lot of acid at the time, and I think it was this that gave us the confidence to push boundaries ... I became a bit of a wild boy. I was trying to keep my world together enough to document it. But I always felt that I couldn't document it unless I was in the middle of it. I felt that it would have been patronising to be sitting behind my typewriter, writing about unhinged people, if I wasn't slightly unhinged myself. Although I'm sure that, deep down, it was also a good excuse to take lots of drugs ... We were competing with the great records of the past; that’s what we had to prove with it. I was trying to write without any boundaries. I was living in a bizarre house in north London, taking lots and lots of hallucinogenic drugs, and writing in a stream of consciousness about anything I wanted and pushing myself as an artist. Dog Man Star is a real testament to what you can create when you want to push yourself as far as you can go...It was meant to be a record about ambition; what could you make yourself into."

'Dog Man Star' was recorded in London at Master Rock studios with producer and engineer Ed Buller.  Tensions between Butler and the rest of the band were such that he left the sessions and even recorded some parts in another studio after his guitar was left in the street and he was locked out of the original facilities.  'Dog Man Star' features Brett Anderson on vocals;  Bernard Butler on guitar and keyboards;  Simon Gilbert on drums;  and Mat Osman on bass guitar;   with Phil Overhead on percussion; Simon Clarke on trumpet;  Roddy Lorimer on saxophone and flute;  Richard Edwards on trombone;  Andrew Cronshaw on cimbalon and ba-wu flute;  Tessa Niles and Children from The Tricycle Theatre Workshop providing additional vocals;  and orchestration contributed by the seventy-two piece Sinfonia of London (arranged and conducted by Brian Gascoine).  

Before the album was mixed, Butler had left for good.  Butler looks back:   "Every band hated you because you were getting all this attention.  Frankly I hated us as well because the focus wasn't on the music. It was on all this stuff that I didn't understand. I just found it embarrassing to be honest ...  I always used to get frustrated waiting for the engineers to set up and in Suede, we could wait for hours for them to try different set ups. Once you have waited for four or five hours the moment can be gone. Your mum is never going to listen to a song on the radio and say nice mic technique. It is very important to use the artist’s energy and hunger and to get on with it early in the sessions ... When I look back at Dog Man Star, I don't regret for a moment that I didn't compromise about it.  I still say to this day that the producer made a terrible shoddy job of it...When I said that at the time, they fired me."

'Dog Man Star' went to number thirty-nine in Japan, thirty-five on the US heatseekers chart, thirty-two in France, five in Sweden, and number three in the UK.  


"We Are the Pigs"

"The Wild Ones"

"New Generation"

'Dog Man Star'

full album:

All lyrics written by Brett Anderson, all music composed by Bernard Butler.

1. Introducing The Band 00:00
2. We Are The Pigs 02:39
3. Heroine 06:59
4. The Wild Ones 10:21
5. Daddy's Speeding 15:12
6. The Power 20:34
7. New Generation 25:05
8. This Hollywood Life 29:43
9. The 2 Of Us 33:34
10. Black Or Blue 39:20
11. The Asphalt World 43:08
12. Still Life 52:34

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