There are a few musical artists that stand out as iconic during the Britpop era. Oasis is one, of course, and Blur, Pulp, and then there's Suede. (Or if you live in the United States, the London Suede.) Suede may be the band the epitome of what Britpop could be, but then starting with the band's second full-length album, Dog Man Star, they tried to eschew everything labeled Britpop.
What Suede pulled off with Dog Man Star is astonishing. The band was falling apart, at least as far as guitarist Brett Butler was concerned. He recorded his guitar parts by himself and he left the group prior to the album being completed. The album was mostly recorded (except for Butler's parts) at Master Rock Studio in Kilburn, London from March 22 through July 26, 1994, but Butler left on July 8.
The shame was that Suede would never sound exactly the same way it did before Butler left and Butler never came close to having the same kind of success he had with the band. Instead, singer Brett Anderson and his mates added teenager Richard Oakes as their guitarist later in 1994 to replace Butler. Oakes turned out to be a very good guitarist, but the band just never had the sonic depth that it had with Butler.
Suede's Dog Man Star reminds us all how great Britpop could be
Dog Man Star is 12 tracks of dense emotion and produced by Ed Buller with lots of reverb and not a lot of shine. Compared to Suede's glossy third record, Coming Up, Dog Man Star is a murky amount of doom on the surface. But there are zero bad songs on the record in a wall of sound featuring much glam and emo before emo was a real thing.
The opener, "Introducing the Band," was inspired by Anderson listening to Buddhist chants, but the song is in no way a chant of its own. "We Are the Pigs" is straight-on rock about starting a revolution. Standout "The Wild Ones" is one of the most beautiful and bittersweet songs one will ever hear. And "The 2 of Us" comes close to matching that.
The album borrows a lot from David Bowie but then the band mixed that with Joy Division, Kate Bush, Lou Reed, and, according to Anderson, even a little Prince. These are rock monsters you can dance to along with opaque 5-minute dramas. Few bands have tried to be as daring on records.