#35: Suede – Animal Nitrate (1993)
Let’s play a game. Just you and I. It’ll be fun, I promise – no need to be scared. I’ll even let you keep your clothes on, if you insist.
Here, take this pen and paper – now, write down your favourite records. Five, ten, it doesn’t matter which. The soundtrack to your comings and goings. Those nights – and the rueful mornings after. Songs that infiltrate the gap between who you are and how you perceive the world around you, this waxing / waning vista where stereo and sound system dominate the space, if not in size then certainly in timbre. Crank the volume up – you’ll thank me for it later.
And should you be silly enough to attempt to quantify the appeal behind those records (or more accurately, to unpick the relationship between sound and listener, for the intricacies of allure are as much dependent upon subjective assimilation as any magic spun in the recording studio, this audio fascination enthused by life’s context)… well, certain tunes will be all fine and dandy – very pleasant. But even before the run-out groove, degrees of entrapment will have faded for all but yourself. There’s a chance I’ll grow distracted, head on over to the cocktail cabinet to fix ourselves another drink.
Then there’s other records. The appropriation of wow records. Music with all the zip and verve that constitute embarrassing and naff musical equivalences – words such as epiphany, or orgasmic, or transcendental. Ah, those words. Because sometimes we’ll be encountering tracks that perfectly describe the X & Y, those sharp angles between personality and such heady slabs of sound. ‘Animal Nitrate’, perhaps…
There’s probably not much requirement for elucidation here; it’s the genus of disc that advertises its appeal with size of sound, with a depth unrelenting in its visceral sensuality. I’ve been away for a few days – usual activity on LGM will reconvene round about now – but whilst scooting between the airport bar and the tiny patch of rough ground behind the terminal building where the authorities permit the deployment of cigarettes, I did manage to scrawl the following two points into the notebook – perhaps the twin metrics that illustrate X, Y, and the audience in between.
Firstly, that riff. Soupy and textured, as if conscious of its own centrifugal force. The opening of any song can be more than a simple framing device, beyond the cold mechanics of overture; hence Bernard Butler’s first move goes way beyond setting the mood. It’s a riff that grooms the listener, striding forward with a strange sense of promiscuity – half confident, half coy, as if plainly knowing what effect it’s having with all those shimmies and feints.
Which directly leads to reason two – for the rest of the song carries on in exactly the same vein, with exactly the same degree of sexual swagger, only this time in four dimensions (for it was as a four piece that originally made their name – pre-Butler exiting stage right – where the interplay behind the band was terrifically tight). Channelling the zeitgeist is a phrase cultural commentators with nothing original to say pluck from the ether, but it’s kind of apt here, as Suede’s first two albums were triumphs of timing. Whilst subsequent records revisited old ground with diminishing returns, ‘Animal Nitrate’ is representative of a deceptively fresh-faced darkness, a world of ambiguity and council-estate beauty that doesn’t shy away from sordidness – maybe even something not a million miles apart from our own lives back then, Brett Anderson’s reedy voice (exposed in many other Suede records) delightfully suited to the androgynous dexterity of subject matter.
Next year this song will be twenty years old, yet it still delivers its thrill in exactly the same dimensions. Think eerie compulsion, the enticement of utter chill delivered in aural form – as if mainlined.
Suede / Animal Nitrate