Sound — 10
The second album of the most hyped British band Suede "Dog Man Star" takes us on a journey through a tragic and in the same time glamorous atmosphere. Even though the album didn't sell as well as the self titled debut from 1993 it's still considered as their most brilliant work under the fans and criticists. In the same time it was their last full-lenght release with their guitarrist Bernard Butler who left the band even before the album was fully completed. Suede's last music video featuring Butler was for the song "Stay Together" which was released as a standalone single in the same year as "Dog Man Star". The special thing about "Stay Together" is that it was the perfect transition between the both albums and also gives a little insight in the sound of "Dog Man Star".
Even when "Stay Together" offers Bulter's best guitar work, on the album he tried to jump on the bandwagon to keep the massive sound of 50+ overdubbed guitars and make the whole thing as grandious as "Stay Together" was. But Butler as well as vocalist Brett Anderson knew where to set the focus. So the whole album lives from its dynamics and variety of the songs. None of the 12 tracks equals each other. As the most songwriters have a limited number of song types this album doesn't let to pigeonhole them because their are very individual but still keep the same atmosphere and concept through the 57 minutes of the record.
The album is influenced by a lot of different musicians who play different styles of music. For example the monumental 9-minute "Asphalt World" is influenced by Pink Floyd's 1971 "Meddle" and features Butler's longest guitar solo which is over 5 minutes. The original version of this song was even about 25 minutes long but was shortened by producer Ed Buller. But there is still a extended 11-minute version on the Deluxe edition of the album. The single "New Generation" is influenced by David Bowie himself especially by his song "Suffragette City" which has a very uptight feeling. The other single "The Wild Ones" (by the way which also has an extended version!) was written according to Anderson after he was inspired by the Belgian chanson-singer Jacques Brel's hit "Ne Me Quitte Pas".
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are very dark and tragic through the whole album and cover some different aspects of Anderson's experiences and his drug addiction and his relationships at this time.
"We Are The Pigs" which was the lead single is about the Armageddon and is inspired by George Orwell's nowell "1984". It features one the best guitar solos by Bernard Butler with bluesy runs and some fast passages.
"Heroine" is about addiction and isolation experienced by lonely teenager becoming a man. [..]"I'm 18 and I need my heroines"[..] Musically it reminds of "So Young" from the first album as the both songs share the first two chords in the chorus and both feature key changes in the bridge.
"The Wild Ones" and "The Asphalt World" are about a relationship which is falling apart and is very personal for Anderson who wrote the lyrics. The second one is especially about jealousy [..]"She's got a friend/They share mascara, I pretend"[..] and drug abuse. [..]"I suply her with ecstacy"[..]
"Daddy's Speeding" is about the late American actor James Dean who was killed in a car accident in the age of 24. The lyrics of this song are Anderson's imagination of taking drugs with Dean. The song also has a manic-depressive feel by changing between two parts in minor in major. The song has a long outro guitar solo which is fading into white noise and car crash sounds reminding of Pink Floyd's "Welcome To The Machine".
"The Power" is standing out from the whole album because of being happy and hopeful. As already mentioned the guitarist Bernard Butler left the band before completing the album so it's the only song which doesn't feature his guitar work. The guitar was played by a guest guitarist whose name wasn't featured anywhere.
As the first side is more a rock album, the second side of the LP has some more orchestral influences. 3 songs ("The 2 Of Us", "Black Or Blue" & "Still Life") even don't feature regular drums on it. The last named track is featuring a 40-piece symphonic orchestra.
Overall Impression — 10
1994 was a very strong year in alternative music. In the States for example bands like Weezer, Bush or Marilyn Manson released their debut albums. On the national market there also was enough concurrence from bands with big names. Oasis made their debut with "Definitely Maybe", Pulp came with "His'N'Hers" and also Blur made their breakthrough with "Parklife". But still in my opinion "Dog Man Star" was the album of the year. Because at this time music was getting less complex and Suede still brought a lot of skill. But still it's not an album for the masses because it needs its time to getting used to. Another reason for this album not becoming as big as it should be is that in the 90s the listeners started becoming more shallow because of such bands as Nirvana whose music was very easy to follow. If "Dog Man Star" came out 10 years earlier along with bands as The Smiths or U2, it would be a monumental work and also feature pop hits like "New Generation" which everyone would know even 30 years after its release. Because of this album you can say that Suede is one of these bands who were born in the wrong generation.
Another point which made the album weaker was the performance. Even though the "Dog Man Star" Tour lasted longer than one year and took place all over the world there was still something missing: Bernard Butler. His successor Richard Oakes who was only 17 years when he joined Suede never lacked in guitar skills but still the performance was not that what it originally should be. Oakes gave his own timbre to the songs which wasn't necessarily bad but he is not Bernard Butler. When Suede went to the studio to record the B-Sides or the following album "Coming Up" in 1996 Oakes could show who he really is.