Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Up against the latest sensation from the exquisitely excitable, fabulously fickle Brit music press, reviewers of Suede (Columbia) are in a pickle. Knowing that U.K. next-big-thingdom is good for maybe 10,000 unit sales in these churlish United States, they have little choice but to protest, "But it's really good anyway!" And it is. But that doesn't mean that the average red-blooded American churl is gonna like it.

Suede frontman Brett Anderson is everything Yank Anglophobes can't stand--nasal, arch, flamboyant. Hetero in his private life, he flaunts an androgynous p.o.v. in his desperately sexy songs. He's given to quotes like, "I'm a man who feels like a woman sometimes. I'm definitely very in touch with my feminine side." And from Bowie to the Smiths, his band's glam roots are highly U.K.-specific.

Me, I kind of hate Anderson's voice. And I kind of love Suede. Guitarist Bernard Butler's elegiac riffs recall the unshakable high points of early Bowie and Mott the Hoople. And Anderson can write--unlike so much adolescent Weltschmerz, these evocations of postteen life on the suicidally depressed edge bear the mark of observed if not lived experience. In the context of his songs, his vocal outrageousness seems brave and funny. Churls should think of Suede as world music--a compelling dispatch from an alien culture. We all know good sex is where you find it. Well, so is good rock and roll.


Fact Cuts: RuPaul, Supermodel of the World (Tommy Boy): This six-foot-ten drag queen wants you to believe not only that classic disco was pop's proudest moment, but that s/he was put on earth to save it--and tempts you to go along. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (Matador): So you really want to know how gals feel about sex? Here's a shameless heterosexual and do-it-yourself indie-rocker who likes it so much she'll rub your face in it.

Playboy, June 1993


May 1993 July 1993