Entry #9 – Abattoir Blues (a.k.a Primary school assemblies could’ve been so much better with Nick Cave)

Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus - Wikipedia

I wish Nick Cave was more appreciated than he is already here in England. The man is an absolute genius when it comes to making music, his songs are gorgeously rich, and he can flip a switch and smoothly move from one genre to the next. One minute he could be singing about twisted murderers and drinking to forget that he is the captain of his pain, the next he could be sitting at the piano for a gentle love ballad. But I think it’s the latter point that has prevented him from making more of an impact; his music has never been mainstream. The only time he has had a massive impact on the UK charts was the 1996 classic Where the Wild Roses Grow, but that was because it was a teamup with Kylie Minogue.

It’s a crying shame because while he isn’t my outright favourite musician of all time, he is definitely up there and is most certainly one of the most intelligent. So to give him the spotlight here on A-Side Glance and make sure it stays there I am going to be taking a look at his 2004 effort with the Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.

A double album which came at probably one of the more curious times in the career of Cave and the Bad Seeds. Talk with any fan of the band and I’m pretty sure that the last albums that would come up in the conversation would be No More Shall We Part (despite its superb single As I Sat Sadly By Her Side) and Nocturama, from 2001 and 2003 respectively. Compared with previous efforts, they are very middle of the road and could have been taken as a sign that the band was slowing down. Not helping that perception was that after Nocturama’s release, original Bad Seed and all around magnificent bastard Blixa Bargeld departed. With all that in mind, their next effort would have to make a good impression and that was probably why it became a double album. As the title suggests this would see the band experiment with blues rock and gospel this time around, most likely tapping into Cave’s fascination with the Bible and Christianity. Going into it they all seem motivated and keen to make an impression. I’m all ears.

As it’s a double album, we’re going to be taking a look at Abattoir Blues to start off with and then in the next entry we’ll switch over to The Lyre of Orpheus.

Track #1: Get Ready For Love

If this had been a proper hymn or something I’d probably have been a lot more enthusiastic when singing them at primary school. Blending fast paced punk rock with gospel sounds like an oxymoron but here it works and works well. Right away we’re assured that Blixa’s departure isn’t going to be a detriment to the Seeds at all as James Johnston makes a good first impression, as does Jim Sclavunos on the drums. Great start to the album.

Track #2: Cannibal’s Hymn

And we calm things right down and go to the other end of the Nick Cave spectrum with a heartfelt ballad, starting with one of the more romantic lyrics I’ve heard; “You have a heart and I have a key/Lie back and let me unlock you”. I should mention that traditionally it’s hard to pry into Nick Cave’s lyrics so I am challenging myself during this review to work out what he is going on about. Here I believe it’s about someone close to the narrator who turned on him, but saw the light and came back before it was too late. Maybe it’s because I’ve listened to too much Radiohead but I find it sweet that instead of being vilified, this person is welcomed back and cared for by the narrator who warns her away from the titular cannibals. Why can’t more songs end this way?

Track #3: Hiding All Away

I feel like I like this one more than I should. It’s got the tone of a hunt, and the sound of something you may hear in a remake of a classic detective or gangster film. Here we have a girl trying to find the narrator, searching high and low and it’s a tale that unfortunately doesn’t have some sort of resolution. No finding of the narrator alive or dead, just a repetition of the line ‘There is a war coming’ for the last minute, with a loud clash of instruments that contrasts with what we’ve heard up to this point in the song. I can’t help but feel there should have been a resolution, an end to this girl’s quest. After all, she ended up pretty intimate with the butcher towards the end which would imply she was desperate for leads. Then again, maybe that works in the narrator’s favour, bigging him up by implying he is that damn good at hiding. Like I say, I probably like it more than I should.

Track #4: Messiah Ward

The piano makes itself known in this one, where we end up doing a bit of stargazing. Not much to say about this one unfortunately, other than its reiteration of the fact that it’s challenging to keep watching what is going on. In a way, at the time of writing this during the long and strange US election week, that does seem poignant.

Track #5: There She Goes, My Beautiful World

Loving the vivid imagery in this one, makes that beautiful world an understatement. Now is probably a good time to mention the guest backing vocalists on this one (The gospel choir if you will) who especially help to bring the chorus to life, not just on this song but on Get Ready For Love as well. Definitely the cream on the cake for this album.

Track #6: Nature Boy


Not my words, the words of Nature Boy Ric Flair. And also me upon hearing this song for the first time. Once again, a set of poignant lyrics in the first verse, both nowadays and back then. Frankly though I don’t think Cave is the kind of guy to talk of contemporary events at this point in his career so I’ll stop harping on about connections that aren’t really there.

For me, this song is very much the narrator’s bildungsroman, a tale of them coming of age and finding their place in the world, starting with the routine bloodshed on the news, branching out to meet a girl, a raunchy night at her’s, and time spent together around nature. A very uplifting song, and my favourite up to this point. I have seen a few people call it overrated and a little centred towards pop and I can see that, but I still think it’s excellent.

Track #7: Abattoir Blues

Title track time and this one isn’t quite my favourite. Musically it’s quite simple, but that just means the lyrics get a real chance to shine. Here are some of my personal highlights:

“I went to bed last night and moral code got jammed”

“My heart it tumbled like the stock exchange”

“The need for validation, babe, gone completely berserk/I wanted to be your Superman but I turned out such a jerk”

Track #8: Let the Bells Ring

As we stand outside the pearly gates for the penultimate track on Abattoir Blues, it dawned on me just how much of a lighter look this is on the usual topics Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cover, in this case death. So much of their discography deals with death in a dark, wretched way. Here? Look on the bright side of death. Fitting upbeat and optimistic, here we mourn not the death of the person themselves, rather the world they have left behind. This album is very much one that subverts expectations.

Track #9: Fable of the Brown Ape

And what do you know, once I thought I had it all figured out and my expectations were that there would be another upbeat song to sign off, they were subverted all over again. We hear that classic Seeds sound with gritty guitar work, and verses steadily creeping along before culminating with a crashing of instruments as Cave bids “So long/Farewell/So long”. It’s a twisted yet accurate way of expressing nature being used and abused, which I suppose is a topic that you can’t really put an uplifting spin on. What bothers me though is that titular brown ape is an allegory for something but I cannot for the life of me think what. Just your standard test subject or something more perhaps? There’s something there, it’s a fable after all. A very Seedsian fable.


I must admit this has been the most challenging review I’ve done up to this point. As I said during Cannibal’s Hymn the lyrics of Nick Cave are difficult to read into with how vague they are. But I suppose that’s comforting in a way. With Nick and the Seeds you do and don’t know what you are getting into if that makes sense. Elaborate music, sure, but just how elaborate, and how consistently elaborate? You truly never know what to expect.

And I guess that’s a good thing. It’s an adventure. But to be honest, as long as it’s an adventure with good music I’m all here for it, and there isn’t a dull track to be found on Abattoir Blues. Not all instant classics but no duds either. That’s good enough for me. Helps that it more or less maintains its uplifting tone throughout until the last song, which works especially well in the drizzling shits of 2020.

Abattoir Blues had my curiosity. The Lyre of Orpheus is definitely going to have my attention.

Entry #8 – B-Side Myself I: Head Music (a.k.a Experimentalier)

Head Music - Wikipedia

At the end of my review of Head Music I stated that I would not be leaving it there as while the album was overall good, it was still very inconsistent. Songs like Elephant Man, Asbestos and Crack in the Union Jack all left a sour taste in the mouth and made me think that surely there could and should have been better songs to replace them.

Lo and behold, the answer seems to be yes.

The 20th Anniversary edition of Head Music that I have saved in my Spotify library comes jam packed with a whole bunch of b-sides and rejected songs. Both have fascinated me in an overall capacity since I got into music, providing an opportunity to explore new avenues bands couldn’t quite bring themselves to commit to.

Music is a subjective art and b-sides are the ultimate example of that. You get some people saying they were rightly left off the main album, and others cursing bands for not having enough faith in them. For me it started when I picked up the Oasis compilation album The Masterplan, a collection of b-sides from their first three albums (Well, two, seeing as the only one from Be Here Now is Going Nowhere). It’s my favourite Oasis album, and I think the reason for that is I had no expectations whatsoever going into it. After all these were songs that were rejected for presumably much better ones, but they are on par if not even better than most Oasis songs (For the record, Rockin Chair is my favourite).

So we come to the b-sides from Suede. The difference here is that instead I do have expectations going into this one. I expect some of the songs I hear are going to be at least somewhat better than Crack in the Union Jack. Surely it can’t be any worse, can it?

I’m not going to listen to and list every single song on the 20th anniversary edition, that would take far too long, so instead I’m just going to note down some of the highlights.

Song: Implement Yeah!

B-Side to: Electricity

Oh I really want to like this one more. It’s good and the opening made me think that this was going to be along the lines of Can’t Get Enough. But it’s not experimental enough for Head Music and initially I thought it would be better suited for Coming Up. Then Brett’s vocals came in. Lo-fi and blurted out in short packages, they’re better suited for something from the Prodigy than Suede. Catchy but best left removed from the final album.

Song: Waterloo

B-Side to: Electricity

Here’s a song Neil not only wrote by himself but actually sang lead vocals on. And you know what? He does a pretty good job, lending the song a bittersweet tone. At first as this song started with the acoustic guitar, I started to get flashbacks to Crack in the Union Jack but then the bass drum crept in after the first verse and my mind was put at ease. While like Crack it is a very minimalist song, it has additional bits and pieces that make it sound like it was more than just a demo, especially Richard’s electric guitar solo in the middle eight. I feel like this should have been the final track on the album instead. I know that Brett has sung all the a-sides in the Suede catalogue and it would be jarring to end an album with Neil instead, but Head Music was meant to be the band’s most experimental record up to that point right? I’d say ending with a change in vocalist is pretty damned experimental!

Song: See That Girl

B-Side to: Electricity

I actually misheard the lyric “She likes the steel inside her” and thought Brett had sung “She likes Neil inside her”. I nearly lost my shit.

Regardless of that though, this isn’t a favourite of mine. Inoffensive is probably the best way to describe it. However, given it’s all about a girl Brett describes in itty-bitty detail, this could probably replace Savoir Faire.

Song: Bored

B-Side to: She’s in Fashion

Now onto the b-sides from She’s in Fashion and this is a high energy one to start off with. In fact, given the title, it feels like the band are acting out against the feeling of boredom and going ‘F*ck it, let’s make some music!’. If it had add some additional Head Music-style electronic noises from Neil then I think this could have easily been slotted into the second half of the final playlist, maybe in the place of Elephant Man. Not a spectacular effort by any means but still not a bad way to kill a few minutes.

Song: Jubilee

B-Side to: She’s in Fashion

Not to be confused with Blur’s effort from Parklife. Mind you, I’m willing to bet that’s why it was left off, people would have inevitably drawn up comparisons. I’ll refrain from doing so here.

This should have been on the album. While it recycles the ‘we’re the litter on the breeze’ lyric from Trash which struck me as pure laziness, I had a blast listening to this one and credit has to be given to Brett’s performance here. It’s one of the best he’s ever done, especially during the climax of the chorus; the way he sings ‘Come take my hand’ is majestic. Just change the title and this would have easily been one of the highlights of the album had it been included.

Song: God’s Gift

B-Side to: She’s in Fashion

Capping off the She’s in Fashion b-sides, this song proves that if you bought the single in 1999 then you would have got more than your money’s worth with the b-sides. After a few seconds of what sounds like faraway industrial sounds we transition into a piano piece with Neil doing his usual bit of magic. I have a feeling that this song was particularly personal to Brett and was aimed at someone specific who thought they were the titular God’s gift. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t included. Originally I wanted to advocate for it replacing Crack in the Union Jack (at least until I listened to Waterloo) but then I realised that would mean the main album would have finished with a trilogy of separation songs. It’s a shame because this is definitely finale material, being a quiet and sombre end. Maybe some strings being added to the mix would have done the trick and given the track a little extra pizazz. Then again, I am not a professional musician so perhaps it’s best left how it is.

Song: Since You Went Away

B-Side to: Can’t Get Enough

This barely feels like Suede. I’m pretty sure if you played just the instrumental to someone who had never head this before, they would say the tune came from Oasis. While lyrically this is one of the better efforts from the Head Music sessions, musically it is severely lacking.

Song: Leaving

B-Side to: Everything Will Flow

We start once again with delicate piano sounds that soon give way for the familiar electronic synth sounds we’ve heard across Head Music. This song very much has the same DNA as He’s Gone, being one about a breakup. Unfortunately, maybe it’s because of that that I don’t like this song as much. I’m probably burnt out on this subject matter and want to hear something new. This song does sound beautiful but it brings absolutely nothing new to the table and by the halfway mark we’ve just gone round in circles. If I’d heard this before He’s Gone, Indian Strings and God’s Gift I’d probably like it more but as it stands, I’m tired of this kind of song.

Song: Crackhead

B-Side to: Everything Will Flow

I should have known from that title that this was going to be a darker, more personal one considering how Brett was at the time but boy howdy. I get the impression that he was looking at himself in the mirror while writing this one, lucid and angry. And there is a lot of passion behind his vocals too; during the verses he sounds bitter about how crack robs you of your social life, your mates and replaces all the plans you have as ‘you sold your life for a big white rock’, and then we get to the chorus where he is damn near screaming furiously on how ‘you can’t give it up’. I wanted to argue that the music itself is a bit bland but it feels like they were taking a backseat to let Brett do the work here, as if it were some sort of twisted Suede-style intervention. Great song, but too hard-hitting for the main album.

Song: Seascape

B-Side to: Everything Will Flow

When listening to a song I make notes on the experience. I think the ones I have here for Seascape sum it up nicely:

  • Another piano piece?
  • Wait. It’s an instrumental?
  • Oh my God it is.
  • I’m not sure why the band felt the need to do this. Was this the result of a jamming session or something?
  • I’m here for it though
  • It’s good for thinking, for contemplation.
  • Oh hang on. What if this was a case of the band doing a Happy Mondays and forgetting to write the lyrics?
  • Ah whatever. It’s a nice and calm track.

Song: Heroin

B-Side to: N/A

The only completely unused song on this list, it caught my eye thanks to its title seeing as it was at one point speculated to be the album’s name thanks to Suede’s strategy of revealing the title one letter at a time. Plus, after listening to Crackhead I want to see if they have the balls to keep going down that route. But after hearing Heroin for the first time…I’m not entirely sure. I think it’s the mirror image of Crackhead. A calmer Brett reflecting perhaps about coming down, how it’s ‘taken everything’ ‘as the clouds come in’. Or is about the experience? The music certainly seems to back up that theory; gentle, calm, makes you want to forget all your troubles.


At the end of the day, Head Music did what it set out to achieve; be a commercially viable, groovy pop record for the dawn of the millennium. But looking into these songs, it makes you think just how different the album could have been.

I’ve said that the first half of the record is brilliant and should not be changed at all. Yes, even Savoir Faire should stay. It’s rubbish, but I think it’s stylistic rubbish. The second half, there’s a lot of room for improvement. But the sad thing is the songs that I would happily include are the ones that wouldn’t suit the overall tone of the album. The best ones here are the slower, more personal songs like God’s Gift, Crackhead and Waterloo, but as I said they wouldn’t suit the pop vibe the album is going for. While they’re experimental, they would cause a severe mood whiplash.

So here is me going into smartarse mode.

If it were up to me, I would have leaned more into the experimental style and made Head Music a double album in the style of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. Have disc one (‘Day’) filled with the poppier, more easy-on-the-ears songs like She’s in Fashion, Electricity, Seascape (Yes I’m including the instrumental), Jubilee and Waterloo, and the more personal and/or gritty songs like Can’t Get Enough, Down, Crackhead, Head Music and Hi-Fi on disc two (‘Night’). Having the two discs would set you up for that whiplash.

Now I’m not saying that would work. But I think it would be more interesting.

Entry #7 – Head Music (a.k.a Suede’s Be Here Now?)

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust at 40: Stuart Maconie on how the classic album  helped transform Britain - Mirror Online

This is an album I’ve been wanting to delve into for a while. See, I loved Coming Up, it’s my go to Suede album and one that commercially took the band to the top during the latter days of the Britpop era. With Blur fading into the background in the aftermath of The Great Escape’s release, Suede now seemed like the next best thing after Oasis and Pulp. They appealed to the misfit with their loud glam-style rock and scored a series of top ten singles with Trash (Which I’ve already covered on this blog), Beautiful Ones, Lazy and Saturday Night. Needless to say, the crowds wanted more and it was more they got in 1999, after Britpop’s demise and with dance pop groups such as the Spice Girls and Steps now making waves in the charts. The cynicism of Britpop had made way for a more optimistic approach as the 21st century loomed, and Suede were set to capitalise on it with what they called a more groovier approach in their next album Head Music.

There was just one problem though.

Perhaps you’ve heard this tale before. A band creates an instant classic of an album that becomes one of the crown jewels of the Britpop genre, they have the world at their fingertips eager for more, and the more they get is mired by drugs, inner turmoil and some frankly dodgy lyrics. Thus, response is lukewarm and the band’s momentum stalls.

Yup, this is Suede’s Be Here Now. But that’s doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. Be Here Now in the modern day has a reputation as a drug-fuelled flawed masterpiece. Maybe Brett’s crack addiction won’t spoil the experience too much and in fact create an underappreciated album with some hidden gems. Or maybe we’ll get a load of Magic Pie. Let’s find out, shall we?

Front Cover:

Head Music - Wikipedia

Gorgeous. The colours and the imagery encapsulate the album perfectly. Favourite Suede cover bar none.

Track 1: Electricity

Fun fact, this was the first song by Suede I ever heard. November 5th 2019. I know the date because it was bonfire night and I came down with food poisoning. Roller coaster of a night. Anyway, I may look at this through rose-tinted spectacles as a result but it is a pretty energetic opener for the album. It’s not spectacular, especially in comparison to other openers Trash and So Young, and on the surface it is just a one-dimensional love song built on similes, but I’d still say it’s a decent way to start the show.

Track 2: Savoir Faire

Apparently, the choice for the lead single was between this song and Electricity.

Thank Christ they went with the latter. More than any other song on the album, this feels like it was penned by an incredibly horny Brett having just taken a hit on the crack pipe. A common criticism of the album is that his lyrics take a turn for the worse and this would more than likely be the first place critics would look, with the opener “She lives in a house, she’s stupid as a mouse”. I’d argue that this would make the song so bad it’s good but it is accidentally saved by a halfway catchy tune that exhibits the dance sound of Head Music.

Track 3: Can’t Get Enough

Maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting much after the previous song but this one took me by surprise as to how good it was. We start off with an electronic beat and a lush guitar riff before entering what is a fast-paced borderline indie rock style of song. There’s an added bite behind the music and Brett’s vocals, like they’re all pounding you in the face as if to make up for Savoir Faire. The lyrical content itself also strikes me as almost a throwback to the first album, and I must admit I’m particularly fond of the line “I make dead space look like a headcase”. My interest is certainly piqued after this, and I wouldn’t mind a bit more of this.

Track 4: Everything Will Flow

Always been one of my favourites from Suede, this one. There’s an elegant and uplifting tone to this one that contrasts nicely with the hard hitting electronic rock of Can’t Get Enough and whatever the hell Savoir Faire was. Considering the band’s mood at the time, everyone just seems at ease; Brett’s vocals, Richard’s guitar, Simon’s drumming, the strings peppered throughout by Neil, it all just seems so gentle. Not traditional Suede per se and it could be classed as just melted cheese, but I’d argue it’s one of their more accessible singles.

Track 5: Down

The longest track on the album by some margin at over six minutes, which means it could risk overstaying its welcome in comparison to the previous two songs. However, I’m happy to say that it doesn’t and despite the opening instrumental making me think it came from the main menu on a Gran Turismo game, I do enjoy the subtle nature of the tune’s build. Everyone involved is making use of those six minutes and slowly working their way towards a melody that smoothly allows the song to flow towards its conclusion. This is another exhibition of Suede’s experimental efforts a la Savoir Faire, but Down clicks for me with how personal it sounds. While the ending does drag a little for my liking, Brett and Neil step up for an outro that to me carries some implications; “all the people in your life say you’re down”, and the creeping piano notes both give the impression that the feeling of being down never goes away. An appropriately downbeat end coda.

Track 6: She’s in Fashion

I can’t help but feel we’re already repeating themes here; singing about a lover with metaphors aplenty. Another one to add to the pile. But it’s got that same laid back feel of Everything Will Flow which works in She’s in Fashion’s favour. From what I’ve gathered, this was also a song back in the summer of ’99 that would get airtime constantly, so I can imagine long-time listeners may be burnt out on this one considering it can sound a little repetitive. But you know what, I actually rather like it. Neil Codling’s work on the synthesiser keyboards create a lovely little whirlpool in your ears, and succeeds in creating a song that matches the poppy vibe Head Music is going for.


So now that we are halfway through the album more or less, I must say that apart from the misfire that is Savoir Faire I am really enjoying this album. Whether I end up calling it better than Coming Up remains to be seen; there are no singles from the second half of Head Music so I’m going to be in unchartered territory for this one. A good chunk of the songs from this point onwards are also written solely by Brett. The only other one penned by him alone from the first half of the album? Savoir Faire. This is going to be interesting.

Track 7: Asbestos

Ok. Not a good start.

I feel like Brett listened to His n Hers from Pulp, thought ‘we can do that!’ and the result was Asbestos. Remember how I said earlier on that Can’t Get Enough seemed to be touching upon the subject matter of the first album? Well this song feels like it’s trying it again but the result is considerably half-arsed. Perhaps if the narrator were more actively involved in the goings on in this song then we could a faster, more catchy and more engaging song. However, because the point of view is voyeuristic we have to settle for a ‘stealthier’ slow tempo, which doesn’t work here at all. The lyrics are also especially dull to the point where you could a play an almost dangerously lethal drinking game whenever Brett mentions ‘suburban boys’, ‘making noise’ or ‘making eyes’. I know that noting how repetitive the lyrics are is, well, repetitive, and that it’s a common theme throughout the album, but they’ve been well hidden on previous songs by great music. Here, left in plain view.

Track 8: Head Music

Eh up. A title track? On a Suede album? Well I never.

Not too much to talk about here honestly, it’s a short and sweet piece with a great bit of guitar work from Richard and Neil adding some sci-fi style noises that almost made me think the song came from Doctor Who. I felt like I was close to getting vibes of Trash from this track, with the narrator being a Suede fan, or indeed just a music fan in general. Or is that a bit too meta? Anyway, like I say, can’t complain all that much, maybe it could have been improved by a middle eight or one more verse, but it’s an easy improvement on Asbestos so I’ll take what I can get.

Track 9: Elephant Man

Here’s a quote from Brett in a 2011 article for Filter Magazine; “I still don’t know why the hell we put ‘Crack in the Union Jack’ and ’Elephant Man’ on there”.

Nor me, Brett, nor me. This is a load of bollocks, and I think even the band realised it considering how abruptly the song ends. Almost as if they wanted to stop as soon as they could. Let’s move on.

Track 10: Hi-Fi

Namedropped in Head Music two tracks ago, this sounds more lo-fi to me. It’s dark and mysterious, helped by the fact that Brett’s vocals have had some distortion added to them. But of course, there’s that elephant (man) in the room again, those damned lyrics. Back in the city again singing about a whole lot of nothing. I guess it might be about a drug trip or something like that? This is probably the most experimental track on the album though, and I think that’s the main reason why I like it. It definitely gives off the vibe of stalking the streets of London completely tripping off your face. This one gets a pass.

Track 11: Indian Strings

With that title you would be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be another track focused on sounding experimental and give the band an excuse to piss about a bit with new sound. The opening keeps that implication going, with Simon’s drumming guiding us in along with the strings (Which, frankly, came as a relief to hear). And then to my absolute surprise, this one was coherent! This is the best song on the second half of the album without a shadow of a doubt, and probably the best overall since Down. Like that song, this one feels personal, dealing with the subject of heartbreak and even tiptoeing around the subject of domestic abuse, a few steps away from Animal Nitrate. I wish this had been a single. There’s two songs left to go here, and the finale has started off strong.

Track 12: He’s Gone

‘You pour all the love that you keep inside/into a song/like “He’s Gone“’. Getting a bit meta there, Brett and Neil? I’m not sure if this was the right song to follow Indian Strings considering this is another one that deals with heartbreak and is sung by Brett from a different perspective, switching from first to third person. It’s two sides of a coin and while this is the lesser side, this is still a decent song. In a way it makes me feel like it’s a sequel to Saturday Night considering both the tempo and the tone. The couple have partied, they have danced, they have pranced, they have been to freak shows and peep shows, and now it’s over. He’s gone. What really strikes me about this track though is the fact that the music itself actually sounds in pain. That’s legitimately impressive.

Makes me wish this was the final song of the album.

Track 13: Crack in the Union Jack

But it’s not. It’s this song, the other one that Brett said in that article I quoted earlier that he wished he hadn’t included on Head Music. It’s not a bad song, in fact I’d say it’s middle of the road compared to some of the tracks we’ve heard here. But this song is so unlike everything on Head Music. It’s not experimental, it’s minimalist, yet ironically it’s the least Suede-sounding song on here. The acoustic guitar, while pleasant, makes Crack in the Union Jack sound like a demo more than anything else. If you absolutely had to include it on the playlist, then it should be either in the middle or after Indian Strings. Not at the end. Weakest Suede finale by some margin.


So I began this entry by dubbing this album Suede’s Be Here Now. Do I mean in the classic way in that it’s made of absolute nonsense? Or in the modern way of it being underappreciated?

Both, really.

The first half of the album, Savoir Faire aside, is brilliant, containing some of my favourite tracks from Suede and is an absolute must-listen. The second half is inconsistent at best, and it makes me question whether I could recommend Head Music as a whole. I guess I would, seeing as the offending tracks do at least go by quite quickly, but it does mean that at the end of the day I prefer Coming Up. I do have to commend Suede for taking Head Music in an experimental direction, but I think it’s an album I respect more than I like. And I just like the ‘safe’, more consistent option that was its predecessor.

I have read that there were other, far better tracks that went unused or ended up as b-sides that didn’t make the final cut, and I’m willing to bet they would have made a better impression than Asbestos and Elephant Man. So I’m not done with Head Music yet on A-Side Glance. I’m going to be back soon looking at some of the b-sides in what is going to be a recurring series.

See you next time for the first part of B-Side Myself.

Entry #6 – Feelin’ (aka Lillywhite v Leckie)

These 31 Artists Have Hated Their Own Albums | NME

For this one I want to mix things up a little bit. I’ve been having creative spurts lately that only seem to happen just when I’m about to go to bed and the latest one came when I was listening to the La’s the other night. I’ll say off the bat that their one and only album is fantastic and is the perfect way to kill half an hour. The sad thing is that it just leaves you wanting more of that classic 50s/60s-style music and the brilliant songwriting of Lee Mavers. They could easily have been as high up as the Beatles but it wasn’t to be and they broke up not long after the album was released. Then two things occurred to me:

  1. There were several sessions of that album’s recording under several producers.
  2. It’s 2020. The Internet exists.

I went digging on YouTube and came across the John Leckie-produced version of Feelin’, one of my favourite songs of theirs. Compared with the official version found on the album as produced by Steve Lillywhite, it’s got a different feel to it yet I found myself enjoying both songs for what they were. Let’s compare and contrast real quick.

Lillywhite version:

If you’ve listened to the album you know how this one goes. A quick and peppy number clocking in at just under 2 minutes that could probably best be described as a feeling of overbearing sadness disguised as a jaunty romp. Complimented by a lively and enthusiastic performance from Lee, you’ve got a song that you can’t help but nod your head to. Worth the price of admission just for that opening blues-style guitar, which is very pronounced and dominates the tune over the acoustic, bass and drums. Like I say, one of my favourites on the album and probably my go-to La’s song along with There She Goes.

Leckie Version:

Same DNA, same lyrics, same singer, but different tone. This one comes across as almost melancholic thanks to its slower tempo and the backing vocals, which I think is the tone the La’s were going for in the first place. Whilst he sounded lively thanks to how fast the Lillywhite version was, here Lee sounds a lot more focused, heartfelt and determined to get it right. We also have the electric guitar breaks that separate the solos and the verses. Here, they just don’t seem to fuse as well with what they come between, but I actually think that works in its favour in a way, seeing as the La’s always prided themselves on going for a more raw sound. Sadly, the actual sound of the electric guitar isn’t quite as powerful as it was in Lillywhite’s, being on a level pegging with Mavers’ acoustic as opposed to one level above it.


The reason I’ve decided to dive into this is because I always find alternate versions of songs fascinating, and there are plenty of different takes from the La’s on their songs. Seriously, take one look at the collection of songs on Spotify and you’re gonna end up burrowed in one hell of a rabbit hole. Anyway, if you’re going to compare two versions of the same song, you’re going to have to pick one and I’m obviously going to pick the official version courtesy of Lillywhite. I think the reason I ended up paying so much attention to the Leckie version was because it just sounded different and provided a new take on Feelin’. Both are good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that the slower tempo does not work in the song’s favour. The faster, more guttural sound of the version found on the album is what makes Feelin’ for me. The backing vocals on Leckie’s version are sweet but they do not suit the rawness that the La’s were going for and the electric guitar isn’t prominent enough. It’s good, it just sounds a little too clean.

Is this the kind of overbearing analysis Mavers would do, or am I barely scratching the surface here? Perfectionism is a bastard.

Entry #5 – Tsunami (a.k.a Coasting Along Nicely)

So here’s the thing. Normally, I would be posting a full-blown album review for this Friday followed by another single review next week. However, that album review isn’t quite clicking for me right now but I’m going to aim to have it done for next Wednesday at the latest. In the meantime, I’m going to do another review of a single and it’s one that I find underrated among the rich discography of the Manic Street Preachers.

The Manics are a band with a fascinating history in the 90s. They put themselves out there by saying that their debut album Generation Terrorists was going to be the rock album to end all rock albums (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t, but good effort anyway), followed it up with the more commercial grunge of Gold Against The Soul, which I must admit I’m enjoying more than I thought I would, and then truly hit their stride with The Holy Bible. The latter has the distinction of being the ‘Richey’ album, being the magnum opus of the band’s songwriter and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards. The man was one hell of a character with a myriad of issues both mental and physical which he channeled into the songs of the Manic Street Preachers. Unfortunately those issues also led to his disappearance before the band were to go to the US to promote the album. 25 years on, no one knows for certain what happened to him.

With their songwriter gone, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Manics couldn’t continue without him. Then they released Everything Must Go. You better believe I’m gonna look at that one day on here and gush about it. Part of it still had Richey’s lyrics in, including Kevin Carter which is possibly my favourite Manics song, so it was up to the next album to prove they could truly survive without him.

This is My Truth Tell Me Yours is a mixed bag. On the one hand, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next is a song that for better or for worse refuses to age, and on the other there is You Stole the Sun From My Heart which I find a bit too poppy for my liking. Then we come to the final single released for this album in 1999, Tsunami.

Musically this is one of the least Manics-sounding songs they have produced, opening up with a sitar being plucked and creating an Asian flavour which stands out against the standard tunes from James’ guitar, Nicky’s bass and Sean’s drums. The chorus also brings us a wonderful little string arrangement which adds to the melancholy that surrounds the song. Considering the title of the song is Tsunami, the sitar kind of makes sense but not when you consider that the song centres around the Silent Twins, Jennifer and June Gibbons, who had a troubled life in the Manics’ home of Wales.

To cut a long story short, the two were inseparable and refused to speak to anyone except themselves, and had a career in crime that led to imprisonment in Broadmoor. Like the aforementioned Kevin Carter, it is a melancholic and downright sad piece about real life figures only this time it’s from the perspective from one of the sisters as opposed to being in the third person, which is a lot more effective. The narrator agonises over their inseparable nature (‘Holding on to me forever’), the futility of their lifestyle (‘Can’t work at this anymore/Can’t move, I want to stay at home’) and the titular tsunami of emotion over it all. The lyrics are easily the best part of this song, scratching the surface of the Twins’ tale and creating an emotional rollercoaster. Hell, you hear the line ‘Disco dancing with the rapists’ in the first verse, you know you’re going to be listening to a good one.

In a way, there’s a chance that the Manics found the two almost as enigmatic as they had Richey, especially the way their stories ended; in mystery. While Richey disappeared, never to be seen again, the twins had agreed that one of them had to die for the other to lead a normal life and start speaking again. Jennifer had offered herself as ‘sacrifice’ and sure enough she passed away from heart inflammation as the two were being transferred to Caswell Clinic. No explaination could be found as to why this happened. June went on to live a normal, ‘free’ life.

So like I say, the Manics were still testing the waters without Richey and This is My Truth… was a mixed bag. But Tsunami is proof that they can still make songs like Kevin Carter and Nicky Wire could easily fill his best friend’s shoes by writing them up. The different sound of the song is, to quote a certain Star Wars meme, a surprise to be sure but a welcome one, and I always like it when bands stretch out and experiment with other instruments like the Manics do here with the sitar and strings. The band’s 21st century output is a hotbed for debate but songs like this proved they had staying power, and achieving the first UK number one of the millennium with their next single solidified that.

One last thing. If I ever get to see the Manic Street Preachers live, I hope they play this one. The studio version is great, but the live versions from Top of the Pops (Yes, they actually played TOTP live with no miming) and the Leaving The 20th Century concert are superb. Check them out if you have time.