When Suede announced that they would be reissuing all of their albums as deluxe 2CD + DVD editions it was a no brainer that I would definitely be getting the first two. Suede and Dog Man Star have staggering moments and most of the b sides are sensational.
Then there was Coming Up, the first Suede album I’d heard and an impressively confident album considering that the band had been written off by many after Bernard’s departure.
But what of the remaining two albums? Head Music was an album that I sort of tolerated in 1999 and had all but forgotten since then. As far as I could remember the lyrics were bad, the band were coasting and apart from two good singles (Electricity and She’s In Fashion) there was nothing to like about it. I’d never even heard A New Morning and I really didn’t think much of their final single Attitude.
But I’d enjoyed the first three reissues so much that I cautiously approached Head Music.
Electricity is an excellent opener and sounds really exciting but the opening line of the second song Savoir Faire bought back to me why I’d been less than impressed with this album for so long.
‘She live in a house, she stupid as a mouse’
Terrible, yes. But the song itself is okay on the whole. Next there’s a five song streak of actively good Suede music. Can’t Get Enough is a great song made better when they do it live. Everything Will Flow and Down have real sad beauty. I always loved She’s In Fashion but Asbestos is creepy, atmospheric and sophisticated. It’s also like nothing else Suede have ever done before or since. I love this track.
In the sleevenotes Brett says that the album needed to be more harshly edited and it’s hard to disagree. The three songs I’d drop are the title track, Elephant Man (wretched song which bafflingly the band decided to showcase on Jools Holland) and Crack In The Union Jack which sounds like a bad cover version of What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.
But what of the second disc of b sides? First of all there are a lot of them which makes sitting down to listen to them daunting at first. Brett argues that Leaving and Crackhead should have made it to the album. They’re both very good (Leaving especially which makes for a solid opening track) but far from the best on offer here.
Bored has one of those Brett vocals that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. He’s in full yelping canine mode which is motivating and inspiring to hear. Seascape is a Floydian instrumental which shares it’s feel with Into The Sea from Coming Up. Let Go is smooth, sultry and probably my favourite Head Music b side. Also Music Like Sex is easily the best previously unreleased track across all the reissues.
Disc 2 more than holds it’s own when put up against the previous b sides. There’s nothing as good as Whipsnade or He’s Dead (I’m not insane) but there’s nothing as bad as Brass In Pocket or Eno’s Introducing The Band either. In a word – consistent.
I suppose the reason I wanted to review Head Music was that I felt it is in danger of being pushed aside for one of it’s three big brothers. There’s bad stuff sure, but the good stuff is really good!