The Asphalt World – The London Suede (1994, Dog Man Star)
When I first heard this 9 minute and 25 second account of life in a glamour-ridden London gutter it didn’t really hit home. Sure it was interesting, but it took about five-to-ten listens for the powerful, darkly-morbid beauty of a song to wash over me and make me its bitch.
Maybe it’s the way the drums kick in at key parts of the song, maybe it’s the boiling guitar of Bernard Butler that bridge the songs two halves, or even frontman Brett Anderson’s nearly inscrutable lyrics that are about a love triangle he’s embroiled in at the time. Perhaps it’s all of that leading into one fascinating, unique song that is probably the best representative of Suede’s overall excellent “Dog Man Star” record that twenty years on seems impossible to have ever been released.
The group at the time so internally conflicted, it’s nothing short of a miracle of momentum and vision that they could produce something so darkly romantic and heartbreaking all at once. It’s said that Butler, the genius guitarist and Anderson were barely ever together during the recording of the album.
This track veers dangerously toward parody or wankering at certain intervals but manages to stay on the rails enough to transcend the breaking apart of the bands two most powerful forces. My favorite part is at approximately the 6 minute mark when it’s building back up to a crescendo approximately 30 seconds later. The band ramps it up in perfect harmony as the drums return and take over. That’s when the song hooked me and it’s been on my short list of favorite songs (about 15 years now) ever since.