Lost in the ’90s: Suede, “The Living Dead”

Written by Lost in the '90s, Music

Morrissey was one of the earliest fans and champions of Britpop glumlords Suede, and it’s not too tough to figure out why. Besides owing quite a musical debt to Morrissey fave Bowie and even the Smiths themselves, Suede followed Moz’s tradition of tossing aside their most stellar compositions to inhabit B-sides and filler space on EPs.

A prime example is found on the B-side of “Stay Together,” the stopgap single released between Suede’s self-titled 1993 debut album and their fantastic follow-up, 1994’s Dog Man Star (the last with cofounder and guitarist Bernard Butler, the Marr to vocalist Brett Anderson’s Morrissey). While the A-side is a widescreen epic filled with blistering guitar, a chorus of soaring backing vocals, and tons of production bells and whistles, “The Living Dead” (download) is the absolute opposite. Stripped down to Anderson’s quiet vocal and Butler’s acoustic guitar, this tale of love torn apart by heroin hit a little too close to home, given Anderson’s then well-publicized relationship with Elastica vocalist Justine Frischmann:

Where’s all the money gone?
I’m talking to you
All up the hole in your arm
Is the needle a much better screw?
Oh, but what will you do alone?
Cuz I have to go.

The phrase “tasteful restraint” has never been used to compliment Anderson’s vocals, but here it fits, as he holds back his usual histrionics and delivers a gut-wrenching performance, even more so on this live version from 1994:

The quality and quantity of Suede’s B-sides were so abundant the group eventually had to release a two-CD collection (which still left out a few tracks — whither “Asda Town?”) called Sci-Fi Lullabies (1997), which, strangely enough, is their most cohesive album outside of Dog Man Star. It’s packed to the gills with excellent tunes, including the especially brilliant “Europe Is Our Playground.” With so many to choose from, what’s your favorite Suede B-side? Chime in below!

“The Living Dead” did not chart.

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