15th May – The Number One Album in the UK – 1999 (Suede – Head Music)

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The English alternative rock band Suede had the Number One album in the UK on 15th May 1999.

Suede’s chart topping fourth album Head Music followed studio albums Suede (1993), Dog Man Star (1994), Coming Up (1996) and Sci-Fi Lullabies (1997) a compilation album of B-sides from the singles that were released from the band’s first three albums.

Suede originally formed in 1989 and were one of the acts at the forefront the music revolution of the ’90s, known as Britpop – a movement that had developed as a reaction against various cultural and musical trends at the time, particularly the phenomenon of grunge.

Before the band had even released a single, a late April 1992 issue of Melody Maker featured the group on the cover, with the headline “Suede: The Best New Band in Britain”.

One of the core strengths of the band in the initial phase of their career was the songwriting team of guitarist Bernard Butler and vocalist Brett Anderson – with some critics comparing it to Marr & Morrissey from The Smiths [the band took their name from Morrissey’s single Suedehead].

Suede were an ambitious band with their anthemic glitter rock sound across their early albums described as drawing upon acts such as Bowie, T.Rex, Adam Ant and Roxy Music; their sensual guitar sounds melded with sexually ambiguous lyrics were a potent combination.

The band decided to try a different production approach for their studio follow up to the Coming Up album (which sold 1.5 million copies), wanting to go in a more electronic-sounding direction.

Hence opting not to continue working with Ed Buller whom had produced their initial three studio albums.

“The last three albums have been pretty much four people playing the same sort of thing, and we just wanted to do it in a different way this time. Songs came about through drum machines, stuff like that. We were just exploring other instruments really. It wasn’t like a conscious plan for it to be an experimental record, it was more something in ourselves and the music just followed.” – Brett Anderson on whether he considered Head Music to be the band’s most experimental album so far – February 14, 1999 – NME

Suede ultimately chose Steve Osborne (U2, Placebo, Happy Mondays, New Order) to helm production duties for Head Music.

“Steve was responsible for a hell of a lot of this album’s sound. We chose him first of all because he did this fucking brilliant job on Savoir Faire, which we did as a tryout around about May last year in Mayfair Studios. It just sounded really exciting and unusual. It was the stuff he’d done with Happy Mondays that we liked best, stuff like Pills ‘N’ Thrills

We’ve been listening to a lot of dance music. I suddenly realised that there was a whole other world of musical dynamics out there. I guess the closest I’d been to it before was listening to stuff like Prince. From Prince, I just started listening to all those modern dance-rap bands. Things like Black Steel, that Tricky track, I really love that. People had played it to me before and I hadn’t really got it, but suddenly it just clicked. It was just one of those things.

The last thing we wanted to do was some obvious attempt to make a dance album, because it would have sounded like shit. There’s a lot more tracks that are rhythm-based, because they’ve been worked on from the bottom up this time” – Brett Anderson on producer Steve Osborne – February 14, 1999 – NME

Commenting on the general themes of the album:

“I don’t think you can pigeonhole this album as easily as you maybe could the last one. I wouldn’t say there was any particular theme, it’s just about the people who are part of my life. I wanted the lyrics to be less emotional in a way. I think I’ve been guilty in the past of writing songs that have been over-dramatic. That was good for the first couple of albums, but I wanted the lyrics to get a little bit colder this time around.

It sounds like a contradiction, but even though they’re less emotional, they’re more honest in a way, because they’re just looking at the truth a little bit closer without any emotions getting in the way. Lots of the songs are quite negative, but I think you can express negativity without it being a down thing” – – Brett Anderson – February 14, 1999 – NME

The End Of Year Critic Lists – Melody Maker – 1999 – saw Head Music placed at no. 1:

1. Suede – Head Music
2. Blur – 13
3. Super Furry Animals – Guerrilla
4. The Charlatans – Us And Us Only
5. Travis – The Man Who
6. The Chemical Brothers – Surrender
7. Supergrass – Supergrass
8. Macy Gray – On How Life Is
9. TLC – Fanmail
10. Eminem – The Slim Shady LP

Singles:

Electricity – Released: 12 April 1999

She’s In Fashion – Released: 21 June 1999

Everything Will Flow – Released: 6 September 1999

Can’t Get Enough – Released: 8 November 1999

Tracklisting:

Electricity – 4’39” (Anderson, Codling, Oakes)

Savoir Faire – 4’37” (Anderson)

Can’t Get Enough – 3’58” (Anderson, Codling)

Everything Will Flow – 4’41” (Anderson, Oakes)

Down – 6’12” (Anderson, Oakes)

She’s in Fashion – 4’53” (Anderson, Codling)

Asbestos – 5’17” (Anderson, Codling)

Head Music – 3’23” (Anderson)

Elephant Man – 3’06” (Codling)

Hi-Fi – 5’09” (Anderson)

Indian Strings – 4’21” (Anderson)

He’s Gone – 5’35” (Anderson, Codling)

Crack in the Union Jack – 1’56” (Anderson)

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