Dog Man Star
|Dog Man Star|
|Studio album by Suede|
|Released||10 October 1994|
|Recorded||March–July 1994 at Master Rock Studios in London|
|Genre||Alternative rock, Britpop|
|Singles from 'Dog Man Star'|
Dog Man Star is the second album by English alternative rock band Suede, released in October 1994 on Nude Records. The album was recorded in London at Master Rock studios in early 1994 and was produced by Ed Buller. It was the last Suede album to feature guitarist Bernard Butler, due to growing tensions between him and singer Brett Anderson ending with Butler leaving the band before the album was completed. Dog Man Star is darker than debut album Suede and chronicles the band as they eschewed from the "Britpop pack". In contrast to that album which highly emulated the influences of David Bowie and The Smiths, Dog Man Star exhibits an individualistic aesthetic, drawing from a wider range of influences.
Although it did not sell on the same scale as their chart-topping debut, Dog Man Star reached number three on the UK Albums Chart. The grandiose, ambitious, and heavily orchestrated album was greeted with enthusiastic reviews but muted commercial response, however it is now considered by many to be Suede's masterpiece. On release it was relatively unknown in the mainstream, although the album has over time garnered universal acclaim from critics. This recognition was helped by Suede's 2010 reunion, which further solidified the album as one of the greatest of all time. In October 2013 NME magazine placed the album at number 31 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In early 1994, when Suede were about to release the standalone single "Stay Together", the morale within the group was at an all time low. Butler's father had died just as the band were about to begin their second American tour. The first week of the tour was cancelled, and Suede flew back to London from New York. When the tour did resume, Butler distanced himself from the rest of the band far more than before. Recently bereaved and engaged, according to Butler, "they got really resentful of the fact that they were on tour with someone who didn't want to party". He even travelled separately, either alone, by taxi, or on the tour bus of support act The Cranberries. Then in Atlanta, Suede suffered the ignominy of having to open for The Cranberries, who had been given a friendlier reception than the head-liners and received the support from MTV as well. By New York they had had enough and the last few dates were cancelled. According to drummer Simon Gilbert, Butler was becoming unworkable and intolerable, and the band could not function together any longer.
To record Suede's next album Anderson moved to Highgate, and began to write lyrics influenced by heavy drugs while living in a secluded Victorian mansion. The album was later described by one journalist as "the most pompous, overblown British rock record of the decade." Anderson has said that its overblown sound was down to his use of psychedelic drugs. "I was doing an awful lot of acid at the time, and I think it was this that gave us the confidence to push boundaries." Anderson has said that he thrived on the surreal environment he lived in at the time; next door were a sect known as the Mennonites, who would often sing hymns during Anderson's drug binges.
After the success of their debut album, Suede were hailed as the unwitting inventors of Britpop, something they were proud of for a short while. However, Britpop soon grew to be dominated by other musical forces, as Blur, Oasis and Pulp arrived on the scene. This disgusted Anderson, who called Britpop "horribly twisted, a musical Carry On film", and he began to distance himself from the scene. "We could not have been more uninterested in that whole boozy, cartoon-like, fake working-class thing." the singer said in 2008, "As soon as we became aware of it, we went away and wrote Dog Man Star. You could not find a less Britpop record. It's tortured, epic, extremely sexual and personal. None of those things apply to Britpop".
Recording and production
The album was recorded between 22 March and 26 July 1994 at Master Rock Studios, Kilburn, London. The rehearsals were very tense and would inevitably split the band into two separate camps. Butler had his own agenda and he frequently clashed with the rest of the band and producer Ed Buller. Butler seemed to antagonise his separation further when he appeared on the front cover of Vox magazine with the tag line, "Brett drives me insane". The interview explained how Butler liked to improvise and how Anderson made this impossible because of his slow ways of working, and his obsession with rock stardom. A despondent Anderson remembers reading the article the same morning he was recording the vocals for "The Asphalt World": "I remember trying to channel all this hurt that I was feeling and the iciness I was feeling into the vocal." Butler later apologised to Anderson over the incident.
Musical differences over "The Asphalt World" triggered the next big argument. The version that finally made it on to the album clocks in at nine minutes 25 seconds, but according to bass player Mat Osman, Butler's initial creation was a 25-minute piece with an eight-minute guitar solo. Osman, felt that Butler's compositions were too audacious and experimental, "Lots of the musical ideas were too much. They were being rude to the listener: it was expecting too much of people to listen to them." The original extended version was in fact 18 minutes long and had to be cut in half; although this long version was, according to Anderson composed in pre-production and featured only guitar and drums; and was intended to be edited, hence the original version is just over 11 minutes long. Butler had been writing lots of additional minor-pieces and was absorbed in complex arrangements. He was interested in prog rock and appeared in a BBC programme on Pink Floyd at the time. The extended "Asphalt World" and the experimental ending for “The Wild Ones” were borne out of this affinity. Both would later appear in the 2011 expanded edition.
The arguments over "The Asphalt World" spilled over on to the rest of the album, as Butler became progressively more dissatisfied with Ed Buller's production. In a 2005 interview, the guitarist maintained his position on the matter, stating that Buller "made a terrible shoddy job of it." Butler wanted Buller dismissed, allowing him to produce the record by himself. Although it was later revealed that Butler had recommended Chris Thomas as their producer. Thomas was more experienced and had previously worked with punk rock bands The Pretenders and the Sex Pistols; however Suede's label Nude Records declined Butler's request, saying Thomas was too expensive. Nude's owner Saul Galpern claimed that the guitarist became impossible to reason with and also made threats to him and Buller. Buller claims he received phone calls where there was the sound of scratching knives on the phone.
Butler issued the band and their management an ultimatum: either they discharged Buller, or he would leave Suede. The rest of the band, however refused to comply with Butler's demands and decided to let him walk out before the record was finished. Butler insisted he was kicked out the band, that when he turned up to the studio to find he was not allowed in. He went back the next day to pick up his guitar so he could record parts at home, though he was told that his guitar would be left in the street for him. "That was it, really. I didn't leave; I was kicked out. That's really obvious. If I'd just left, no-one would have let me leave, if I'd been wanted." Suede's manager Charlie Charlton made a final attempt to reach consensus between the two parties, however during a tense phone conversation the final words Butler uttered to Anderson were along the lines of "you're a fucking cunt."
On 8 July, Butler exited the sessions leaving Dog Man Star some distance from completion. Anderson had recorded little more than a string of guide vocals; several songs did not have titles; much of the music was still to be embossed with overdubs. One notable song, "The Power" did not feature the guitarist and had to be played by a session guitarist instead. Anderson admitted that the song is devoid of Butler's "depth of touch;" and has stated, in hindsight that the song should have been replaced by the b-sides "Killing of a Flash Boy" and "My Dark Star". Buller and the remaining members succeeded in taking the record to its conclusion. Butler did finish some of his guitar parts, though according to Saul Galpern he refused do it at Master Rock and instead had to book another studio where he could work on his own. He made a contractual contribution to "Black or Blue" in a separate studio. Anderson discovered a covert backing vocal on the song, which he recalled: "I can't remember the exact words but it sounded vaguely threatening."
Among the post-Butler additions was a reworked ending to "The Wild Ones", an orchestral coda on "Still Life" and an electric guitar part, copied note for note from Butler's original demo of "The Power", which Butler strongly criticised. Butler became a harsh critic of the album, not just from a production standpoint, but the overall musicianship. He cites lack of commitment in the studio, along with Anderson's partying antics, and the band's unwillingness to challenge his elaborate ideas as his main criticism, "I just heard too many times, 'No, you can't do that'. I was sick to death of it. I think it's a good record, but it could have been much better."
Influences and themes
Writing for The New York Times, Neil Strauss said: "Dog Man Star looks back to the era when glam-rock met art-rock, with meticulously arranged songs sung with a flamboyance reminiscent of David Bowie and accompanied by anything from a 40-piece orchestra to an old Moog synthesizer." The Bowie influence was still omnipresent, however, unlike their debut, Suede focused on a darker and more melodramatic sound.
Anderson stated that a lot of the album's sexuality was inspired by Prince. He also drew inspiration from Scott Walker. In his book The Last Party, John Harris opined that "Walker's influence was smeared all over" the album, highlighting the songs "Still Life" and "Black or Blue". Other influences were Kate Bush's Hounds of Love and Berlin by Lou Reed; which Anderson described as "albums with a musical journey and stories of sadness and darkness." Butler drew inspiration from The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, Joy Division's Closer, Marc and the Mambas' Torment and Toreros and The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".
In retrospect, aside from being a collection of songs, there is a perception among some that the album tells a story; that its structure consists of a beginning, middle and end. One critic opined: "There is a proper introduction, a rousing orchestral finale, and arguably a coherent narrative of love, sex, drugs and loss." Critics have likened the album to having an aura of claustrophobia. Stylus Magazine observed: "claustrophobic does not even begin to describe this record." Other themes the album explores are solitude, paranoia and self-loathing. On the darker side the album depicts tragedy, failed relationships and doomed romances; however, within this dark setting, Anderson allowed positive statements of ambition and social mobility, reflected in "The Power".
Music and lyrics
As they were on Suede, elements of Anderson's lyrics were influenced by his drug use, citing William Blake as a big influence on his writing style. He became fascinated with his use of visions and trance-like states as a means of creation. Anderson claims that much of the torn, fragmented imagery on songs like "Introducing the Band" and B-side, "Killing of a Flashboy" were the result of letting his subconscious take over. "Introducing the Band" was a mantra he wrote after visiting a Buddhist temple in Japan. Lead single "We Are the Pigs" depicts Anderson's visions of Armageddon and riots in the streets. The song also features horns that are reminiscent of those used in the theme music from Peter Gunn. Anderson's lyrical subjects became exclusively tragic figures, such as the addicted teenager in "Heroine", and James Dean in "Daddy’s Speeding". Both songs introduce the themes of isolation where the obsession is forming relationships with fantasy figures, as oppose to real people.
"Heroine", with the refrain, I'm aching to see my heroine, has a celebrity influence, paying homage to Marilyn Monroe, while evoking Lord Byron. She Walks in Beauty like the night, the song's opening line, is the first line of a Byron poem. Anderson wrote the eulogy "Daddy's Speeding", about a dream involving taking drugs with the late American actor James Dean. The slow-tempo song culminates in an explosion of feedback and white noise, depicting a car crash. It was partly inspired by "How Do You Think It Feels" from Lou Fred's Berlin. The recurring theme of self-loathing is reflected in the ballad "The Wild Ones", which tells of a dying relationship. Anderson considers this song to be his favourite single moment in Suede's history. The main refrain was partly inspired by Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas". Here, Anderson alternates between tenor and falsetto.
Anderson's voice is generally deeper compared to the albums before and after Dog Man Star, where he sang in a higher register. "Black or Blue" is a song about racial intolerance and tells the story of a doomed interracial romance. Critics have likened the song to West Side Story. "This Hollywood Life" is the most aggressive song on the album. John Harris of NME wrote: "a record so couched in earth-shacking drama probably needs at least one spittle-flecked tantrum." Anderson states that the song is about the "seedier side of the music business where everyone has to debase themselves to greater or lesser extents in order to succeed." "New Generation" is an up-tempo song, considered the most upbeat song on the album and a moment of "sleek rock'n'roll." One writer noted that Anderson sounds more like Bowie in "New Generation" than he did in previous songs that drew similar comparisons.
"The Asphalt World" is by far the longest song on the album and considered its centrepiece. It is a slow-tempo rock ballad with the lyrics: she comes to me and I supply her with ecstasy/sometimes we ride in a taxi to the ends of the city. Partly influenced by Pink Floyd, its lyrics convey deviancy and sexual jealousy. At the end of the song there is a section of dialogue featuring Lauren Bacall from the film Woman's World. The piano ballad "The 2 of Us", according to Anderson is about loneliness against the backdrop of wealth and fame. It features Anderson's favourite lyrics on the album: the snow might fall and write the line on the silent page. A bawu solo precedes the song's crescendo. Echoing "Sleeping Pills", "Still Life" is considered to be written from the viewpoint of a bored housewife. An early concept that was originally planned for Suede, "Still Life" features the 72-piece Sinfonia of London orchestra.
Title and artwork
Anderson spoke of the album's title as a kind of shorthand Darwinism reflecting his own journey from the gutter to the stars. Fans noted the similarity to experimental film-maker Stan Brakhage's 1964 film, Dog Star Man. "The film wasn't an influence but I obviously dug the title," the singer later confessed. The title is intended as a proud summation of Suede's evolution. "It was meant to be a record about ambition; what could you make yourself into."
The artwork, which features a naked man sprawled on a bed was lifted from one of Anderson's old photo books. Taken by American photographer Joanne Leonard in 1971, the front cover picture was originally titled "Sad Dreams On Cold Mornings" and the rear photo "Lost Dreams," Anderson says, "I just liked the image, really, of the bloke on the bed in the room. It's quite sort of sad and sexual, I think, like the songs on the album."
Release and reception
|New York Times||(favourable)|
|Tiny Mix Tapes|||
Dog Man Star entered the charts two places lower than Suede at no. 3. In response to the lower charting, Anderson said: "I felt that it didn't get the commercial success it deserved, it got the critical success. I think a lot of people thought the band had split up because Bernard had left." Lead single "We Are the Pigs", peaked at 18, plunging to 38 the following week. The choice of single had been a subject of heated debate, with Sony wanting to release "New Generation" as the first single, which would have made more commercial sense, however, Anderson disagreed as he did not feel it had the drama and the power that represented the album. Even the release of "The Wild Ones", the ballad that Anderson still thinks may be the best song Suede have ever recorded, did not fare better. Like "We Are the Pigs", it stalled at number 18. The third single "New Generation" charted even lower, peaking at number 21. "The Power" was the proposed fourth single, set for release on 1 May 1995, however this never happened.
The British music press were more enthusiastic about Suede's new record. In his review for NME, John Harris gave Dog Man Star a rating of nine out of ten, calling it "a startling record: an album surrounded by the white heat of something close to genius". He stated: "the songs of Dog Man Star are grand designs, enacted against grandiose backdrops." David Sinclair of Q magazine gave the album a full five stars; in his review he said. "With Dog Man Star the group has vindicated just about every claim that was ever made on their behalf...It will be hailed in years to come as the crowning achievement of a line-up that reinvented English, guitar-band rock'n'roll for the 1990s."
Nicholas Barber of The Independent complimented Butler's musicianship, "The follow-up to Suede's Mercury-Prize-winning debut is a larger-than-life blend of pop hooks and theatrical gestures. The music is a testament to the talent of its composer, Bernard Butler, whose lurid guitar curls notes into the mix exactly where they are needed." He added that, "at times Dog Man Star is messy and preposterous. But no record collection is complete without it." Stuart Maconie of Select gave the album four stars out of five, writing: "fools will call it lush when in fact it's a masterpiece." He singled out two songs, "The Power" and "Still Life" as "the best things they've done to date."
Despite Suede's problems in the US, such as the short-lived tour and the lawsuit over the band's name, Dog Man Star sold about 36,000 copies there as of 2008 according to Nielsen SoundScan. By comparison, this is about a third of the sales of Suede, which shifted 105,000 units in the US. American music journalist Robert Christgau was keen on Suede's debut album, however he rated Dog Man Star a "dud" in his consumer guide review. Other critics saw the album as a step forward from their debut. Simon Reynolds of The New York Times wrote that while Suede's "self-titled debut was too steeped in glam rock and mope rock [that] connected with only the most devout Anglophiles", on their second record "the group soars to new heights of swoony hysteria". He concluded by stating that "Dog Man Star deserves attention, if only for its absurd ambition".
In light of the album's perceived feelings of claustrophobia, Jonathan Bernstein of Spin said that "Dog Man Star is the work of a man cautiously opening the bedroom door and reeling from the discovery that other people have lives." He concluded by saying: "the glam wonderland on which Suede was weaned is still evident, but suddenly this is a group capable of far surpassing its perceived limitations." Writing for the Michigan Daily and echoing similar feelings of pushing boundaries, Thomas Crowley said that "Dog Man Star will not only silence the band's most spiteful critics, but it will also surpass fans' expectations with its monumental sound." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic awarded the album four-and-a-half stars out of five, writing: "while Suede may choose to wear their influences on their sleeve, they synthesize them in a totally original way, making Dog Man Star a singularly tragic and romantic album."
In June 2011, Suede released remastered and expanded editions of their previous five studio albums. Released in chronological order each week, Dog Man Star was the second to be issued. The expanded version includes the original 12 tracks remastered. Additional bonus material includes demos, all b-sides from the singles "Stay Together", "We Are the Pigs" and "The Wild Ones". Missing are the b-sides to "New Generation", which featured replacement guitarist Richard Oakes. Also included are six extra tracks; notable songs include the original unedited versions of "The Wild Ones" and "The Asphalt World", and "La Puissance", a version of "The Power" sung in French.
The DVD features song-films which were specially created for the Dog Man Star tour and previously-unseen footage of the band playing at the Casino de Paris and at the Fnac, Les Halles in Paris on 27 November 1993. The bonus DVD material features a 2011 interview with Anderson and Butler including contemporary film inserts from Simon Gilbert. The booklet contains all the lyrics, hand-written lyric drafts and previously unpublished photos of the band. There is also a specially-written note by Anderson; in it he says: "If I could choose to be remembered for just one musical document it would be this." Out of all Suede's reissues, Dog Man Star sold the most units and charted at no. 63 in the UK Album Chart.
With the exception of A New Morning, Dog Man Star is Suede's least commercially successful album, yet it is now widely considered their finest work. It is widely considered by many critics as Suede's masterpiece. Many critics are keen to emphasise the band's split as the main reason for their slow downfall. John Mulvey was the first journalist to write about Suede for the NME in 1991 at the ULU, when Suede were still relatively unknown. Over a decade later and in sharp contrast to his emphatic review in 1991, Mulvey now writing for The Times wrote about Suede's compilation album, Singles. He felt that if the band "had split up in 1994, following the release of the majestic Dog Man Star album, Suede might now be celebrated as one of the great bands." He then added: "as the bulk of Singles proves, over the past nine years Suede have sounded like a parody of their formative selves."
Jon Monks of Stylus Magazine said that "Suede will never make a record this good again, whether it is because Butler left or merely it was a such a perfect time for Brett to be writing, they have failed to make anything nearly so encompassing as this." In September 2003, Suede played five nights at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, dedicating each night to one of their five albums and playing through an entire album a night. Tickets sold fastest for Tuesday's Dog Man Star night, and were selling for over a £1,000 a pair on eBay. By comparison, tickets for A New Morning went for up to £100, leading NME to state: "It’s seldom that you get to mathematically prove your critical opinion."
Following Suede's 2010 reunion shows, an article appeared in the New Classics column in American music magazine Crawdaddy!. Written by Andres Jauregui, he wrote about Dog Man Star's legacy: "Despite the challenges Suede faced, Anderson achieved the anti-Britpop album he wanted in Dog Man Star, to the kudos of the hipper critical circle, and the detriment of the band’s mainstream appeal. For all its indulgence and Bowie-esque melodrama, it’s more literate, more tortured, and more ambitious than its peers. More substantive than a “woo-hoo”, brighter than any champagne supernova, Dog Man Star’s origins, theatrics, and sense of rebellion are the stuff of rock'n'roll legend."
|1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||UK||1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||2005||*|
|Alternative Press||US||The 90 Greatest Albums of the 90's||1998||37|
|British Hit Singles & Albums||UK||Poll: Greatest 100 Albums of All Time||2006||75|
|The Guardian||UK||1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die||2007||*|
|Melody Maker||UK||All Time Top 100 Albums||2000||16|
|NME||UK||100 Best Albums||2003||78|
|The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever||2006||58|
|The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time||2013||31|
|Q||UK||In Our Lifetime: Q's 100 Best Albums||1995||*|
|Readers' All Time Top 100 Albums||1998||35|
|Select||UK||The 100 Best Albums of the 90's||1996||17|
|Virgin||UK||Poll: Top 1000 albums||1998||62|
(*) designates unordered lists.
|1.||"Introducing the Band"||2:38|
|2.||"We Are the Pigs"||4:19|
|4.||"The Wild Ones"||4:50|
|8.||"This Hollywood Life"||3:50|
|9.||"The 2 of Us"||5:45|
|10.||"Black or Blue"||3:48|
|11.||"The Asphalt World"||9:25|
|American release bonus track|
2011 Remastered and Expanded version
|1.||"Squidgy Bun (Introducing The Band)"||2:37|
|2.||"Ken (The Wild Ones)"||5:40|
|3.||"A Man’s Song (Heroine)"||2:55|
|4.||"Banana Youth (The Power)"||4:01|
|5.||"The 2 Of Us"||6:40|
|1.||"My Dark Star"||4:26|
|2.||"The Living Dead"||2:50|
|3.||"Stay Together [Long Version]"||7:26|
|4.||"Killing Of A Flash Boy"||4:07|
|6.||"This World Needs A Father"||3:55|
|8.||"Eno’s Introducing The Band"||16:05|
|1.||"La Puissance (The Power)"||1:24|
|2.||"The Living Dead (Piano Version)"||2:47|
|3.||"We Believe in Showbiz"||3:47|
|4.||"Still Life (Orchestral Version)"||5:14|
|5.||"The Wild Ones (Original Unedited Version)"||7:17|
|6.||"The Asphalt World (Original Unedited Version)"||11:27|
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