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‘Duchess’: Suede vs. Mansun vs. the Stranglers

Suede – Duchess

‘Duchess’ is a b-side from Suede’s thirteenth single, ‘Filmstar,’ released 11 August 1997. Singer Brett Anderson has listed this song amongst his least favorite Suede songs, but do you agree? The song opens with a ticking bass line and Anderson’s vocals pipe in as if emanating from a claustrophobic vacuum. Its minimalistic sound brings the song a sort of gravitas. The chilling whine of Richard Oakes guitar, Neil Codling’s organ-like keyboard, and swelling strings lends texture to this bleakness.

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Mansun – The Duchess

Mansun were one of the more underappreciated bands of the Britpop years, and this song is further proof. ‘The Duchess’ opens with a Casio beat that slinks into a cool disco groove. It’s a little bit psychedelic and a little bit disco, but it’s 100% ’70s cool. Can’t you imagine shaking your groove thing on the dance floor to this one?

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The Stranglers – Duchess

‘The Duchess’ in question in the Stranglers’ smart pop single is an heiress, claiming to be a direct descendent of Henry VIII, whose family has fallen on hard times. She ‘needs a man, God forbid’ and turns to the ‘Rodneys,’ the nouveau-riche types with no breeding or class, the types of which her family would never approve. These dreadfully ordinary men queue up for her attention, perhaps assuming that she has a few quid squirreled away. Or is that what this song is about? The debate has been raging for over 25 years! Either way, it’s a characteristic swipe at class snobbishness. Let’s get this out of the way: this is the best of the three songs. Game over! Go home!

Britpopping since I first heard 'Animal Nitrate' in 1993

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