You don’t have to be a hair metal band or deeply entrenched in the long hair and guitar solo world of classic rock to pull off a power ballad. Britpop had it’s fair share of air grabbing, open chord clanging. swelling from the background, lighter in the air moments.
I’ve chosen By The Sea by Suede to represent everything from Radiohead’s High & Dry to Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger because I feel it deserves more light still than it got back in that heady summer.
It also instantly transports anyone who was more than passingly familiar with the good ship Britpop back to the 20th century’s after party.
Of course Suede had some pretty Big Rock influences in their early records. You could hear Bowie, T-Rex, Slade and Iggy Pop at work between the grooves of the debut album and Dog Man Star. By the time the prodigal guitarist Bernard Butler had flown the nest and album number 3 Coming Down had hit us, they were fully recognised as scene leaders on a par with Pulp and The Charlatans.
As such, in came the sweeping melodies and the mournful piano intro of Coming Up’s set expanding hidden weapon.
“She can walk out any time, any time she wants to walk out that’s fine, She can walk out any time any time she feels that life has passed her by”
It’s a heartbreaker from the off. If the first minute of By The Sea doesn’t get you I’ll wager you’re no sucker for melodrama nor a fan of modern noir and never had an emo phase.
By The Sea plays it clever with a dual aspect caterwaul that could be seeing the same relationship problems from both sides or just reporting various updates from the emotional frontline.
“He can walk out anytime, any time he wants to walk out that’s fine, He can walk out anytime across the sea, into the brine”
The stakes are upped. She can head off and start a new life, he can always just kill himself. Just as things are looking as bleak as The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin we get a triumphant middle eight
“So we sold the car and quit the job and shook some hands and wiped the make-up right off, we said our good-byes to the bank left Seven Sisters for a room in a seaside shack”
Followed by a ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying!’ refrain for a chorus
“it’s by the sea we’ll breed, into the sea we’ll bleed”