Suede really broke through with their self – titled record in 1993. Their mix of Smiths’ alt pop with the Brit Invasion rock of Oasis and Blur made for a successful formula that led to critical success and other bands like The Libertines in the 2000s. Suede was at the forefront of the second British Invasion of the early / mid 90s and really hadn’t produced music that captured the emotional passion and punch of that first record. Multiple break ups led to a rather disjointed release schedule with recent releases Night Thoughts and The Blue Hour lacking the punch I was craving. After four years since their last release, I hope She Still Leads Me On marks a return to form.
Frontman Brett Anderson recently stated in an interview that their upcoming record Autofiction is their “punk” record. Anderson sees the move to punk as a natural evolution for the band as they embark on a new journey. The lead single She Still Leads Me On marks a bridge between their Brit pop glam roots and their punk aspirations. As such, it is an amazing mix of both genres, which really works and brings me back to what I connected with all those years ago. However, I think the new punk gloss gives it a fresh coat of paint, which will elevate it above vacuous 90s nostalgia.
The track starts with feedback and static, which signifies the punk leanings Anderson is after. However, punk feedback and classic 4/4 timing with snapping snares is drowned out by lush musical landscapes. These sonic landscapes and James-esque vocals firmly grounds you back within the Brit pop 90s. Instead of sounding like a track that can’t make up its mind as to what type of song it is, the two competing genres play nice. This track is like the first dinosaur that ran around with feathers…it’s not a disorganised mess, but an example of evolution.
The song itself is about Anderson’s mother’s death in 1989 and his conflicted relationship with her. On the one hand, he sings about her endless guidance this many years since her death, but he also sings about how she could be unkind. What is most telling is how he sings about “being a young boy” even now, which hints at how some of him has yet to truly come to grips with her passing. Vocally, Anderson is a bit lower than his 1990s no holds barred falsetto. However, he does not lose any of his emotional power and raw force, which bodes well for a punk record.
For me, it is vocally where this track really shines. Suede’s previous two records had more of a prog / pop vibe with some restrained vocals. Anderson can hold back on this track, but when the checkered flag comes out he lets it rip. Much like Tears For Fears who found a new musical energy on their latest record, it sounds like Suede’s new direction has given the band a needed jolt. This track is catchy, modern, intelligent…and most importantly…exciting.
Listen to Suede’s She Still Leads Me