Coming off of Suede’s astonishing North American tour-closing show at Massey Hall last Friday – Manics were also great, but Suede’s first Toronto show in a quarter-century owned the night – I was reminded of a time, not that long ago, when a Suede show anywhere, let alone a run of excellent new records, seemed a total pipe dream. And yet, out of that drought, came a single unexpected and wholly improbably record.
After the failure of 2002’s A New Morning and the band’s breakup in December 2003, Brett Anderson found himself reaching out to guitarist Bernard Butler, who famously left Suede before the completion of Dog Man Star and to whom he’d not spoken in almost a decade. In that time, Butler had forged both a solo career and a successful track record as a producer, but his last release as a performing artist was 2002’s second McAlmont & Butler album, Bring It Back. In other words, both had some time and bridges were mended and impossibly, the two original principals of Suede, who’d split so publicly a decade earlier, were forming a new band.
In retrospect, The Tears were probably doomed from the beginning. Even though the drama of Suede’s first incarnation were well in the rearview, the weight of it would overshadow whatever Butler and Anderson did musically in their second go-around. The band’s only record – 2005’s Here Come The Tears – was exactly what you think an Anderson-Butler record would sound like if they’d aged out of the fiery tensions that tore them apart – a Suede with plenty of songs about desperate romances with dramatic vocals and riffy guitar hooks, but a lot less sleaze. It was good to very good but far from revelatory and maybe put to bed the “but what ifs” of Butler’s departure, and as a side-effect increased appreciation of what Richard Oakes did with Suede – it’s hard to imagine Butler writing the concise glam-pop of Coming Up.
The Tears were a fully active touring band while active, playing around Europe, Asia, and the UK in 2005 but when the cycle wound down, the band did as well and quietly went into mothballs. Anderson released a few solo records and reformed Suede in 2010, and Butler retired from touring for a while to focus on production though has eased back into performing and also operating as a solo artist in collaborations with Catherine Anne Davis and Jessie Buckley over the last few years. It’s hard to imagine Butler and Anderson’s musical paths crossing again, so I’ll just be thankful this happened and that their personal relationship (presumably) has been healed.
“Refugees” was the first single from the band. It, as the kids say, slaps.
The single was successful enough to get the band a slot on Top Of The Pops in May 2005, allowing the world to once again see the patented Butler hair whip/guitar swing on television, the way nature intended.
But of course, the performance was lip-synched, so for a proper live reading we go back to their appearance on Jonathan Ross in April 2005.