Heroes: Suede and Kevin Gates

Suede – Night Thoughts

As crunchy as “Metal Mickey” sounds in retrospect, it didn’t capture the affected homoerotics that singer Brett Anderson would yammer on about in every stateside interview the spring of 1993. To succumb I needed the full album: Anderson shouting “What does it take to turn you on?” again and again in “Animal Nitrate,” failing to smother Bernard Butler’s guitar; the stacks of junk guitar in “Pantomime Horse” piled like exhausted post-coital bodies; the fully convincing homoerotic rush of “The Drowners”; Simon Gilbert’s martial tapping on “Moving.” Four songs too long, reliant on ballads for “sensitivity,” Suede’s eponymous debut nevertheless remains a must-own: not an antidote to grunge so much as the overwrought, camp British response to the era’s new hyperemotionalism.

On 1994’s Dog Man Star, Brett Anderson stabs his cerebellum with a curious quill, pouring out fantasies about Hollywood adventures gone awry, fucking under chemical skies, and quoting Byron while framed by precisely timed guitar blasts. He constructs a glass house in which he can project like Liza Minnelli in Radio City. Imagine if Roxy Music had recorded an album’s worth of “Mother of Pearl”‘s and “If There is Something”‘s. I could say this even in 1994 when I bought Dog Man Star and immediately considered it the most dangerous record in my possession. Less overt about (pan)homosexuality, it evokes the kind of dissolution confused by sex-starved teenagers with romance and realism; it’s the best Gregg Araki film ever made. 1996’s Coming Up was the last boner before the band needed Viagra, but I don’t care for it. The reissues of Suede and Dog Man Star, complete with the best set of B-sides recorded since The Smiths’ peak, are the band’s testaments. That’s one more album than most British hypes manage.

Like 2003’s Bloodsports, Night Thoughts suffers from harsh mastering that’s the aural equivalent of kerosene poured on a newly painted car. The songs are the right length. “Tightrope” aside, Anderson is in excellent form: full-throated, present, unafraid. Richard Oakes’ junk riffs still sting and crunch; for a crew of recovering fortysomething roués to write a song called “Like Kids” with the hook “Oh, it belongs to us” and avoid looking like prats is no small thing. “The Fur & the Feathers’ confirms that Suede remains the only British band of their generation who can write and sing ballads. So why does Outsiders sound tentative? Return to the fortysomething point. To record songs celebrating anthemic and hysterical responses to adversity is a hallmark of the young. There are moments on Night Thoughts when Anderson-Oakes include self-actualization paeans for sodden executives.

Kevin Gates – Islah

Broad with short vowels, touched by sadness, Kevin Gates’ frogmouth is so singular that it can obscure the merit of the material. His official debut has plenty of merit, though: among the most raucous and lived-in of recent debuts. No way is it “Juicy,” but “2 Phones” shares its I-made-it-Ma ebullience, a sequel to the graceful, sweet hip hop tracks he’s released since 2013, and he seizes the chorus like the steering wheel of his Ferrari (a pity about the bitch boasting though). It deserves to break as wide as “Trap Queen.” Working with a bevy of producers convinced it’ll happen, the Baton Rouge rapper finds hooks as big as his voice: the acoustic strumming on “Hard For,” the “she says I’m a dog but it takes one to know one” chorus on another.

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One Response to Heroes: Suede and Kevin Gates

  1. Pingback: Singles 5/6 – Humanizing The Vacuum

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