Suede - Stay Together
Released on Valentine's Day 1994, Stay Together was a single-only release by Suede, caught between the glamour of their debut and the dingy isolation of Dog Man Star. As with Blur's Popscene, itself a bridge between the baggy sound of Leisure and the urban pop of Modern Life Is Rubbish, Stay Together takes as its origin the graceful guitars and piano of Suede but mixes in the more daring sound that was being formed during the writing of the songs that would eventually produce Dog Man Star.
Stay Together opens with overdubbed guitars ebbing and flowing against one another before Brett Anderson's singing of the first verse and how each chorus is followed by a few bars of music that would have been better suited to a bridge. Each time the song returns to a verse, it does so slightly heavier (second verse) or a little more tender (third verse) than it had done previous. Around five minutes into the full version of Stay Together, Anderson's backing singing falls behind a bizarre, impassioned rant that concludes with the plead, "Don't take me down to the park!" before Bernard Butler's guitars and The Kick Horn's brass drag the song to a conclusion, though not before Butler reintroduces the same guitars from the song's opening seconds to also close it.
Stay Together is a marvellous song and among the best ever recorded by Suede. The seven minutes of the full version, included here as track four, gives them the space that was missing on their debut and, as the writer of the music, Bernard Butler does not waste a second of it. In never letting any idea stray beyond a second of third playing, Stay Together, like Dog Man Star's The Asphalt World, is three superb songs in one, combined to be so much more than a sum of its parts.
But what made this an essential single, at least until the release of Sci-Fi Lullabies, was the inclusion of the b-sides, The Living End and My Dark Star. The Living End is a little over two-minutes-and-forty-seconds of bruised romance accompanied by some of Bernard Butler's best guitar playing, as one half of a relationship wonders what will become of the other as they walk out on them, driven away by the spending of what little money they had on heroin. My Dark Star, meanwhile, is glimmering, stylish pop that bursts into a globe-hopping chorus. In both cases, these songs would have been good enough to get onto Suede, if not Dog Man Star, although the same could be said of so many songs Suede released as b-sides before Bernard Butler left the band.
Of course, with the edited version of Stay Together now available on Singles and the b-sides on Sci-Fi Lullabies, why bother with this? Firstly, Stay Together (Edit) is so much less than being half the song that the full version is - one is largely inessential, the other is not. Secondly, Stay Together is reminiscent of the years when singles stood alone from albums, which resulted in the release of such great songs as Popscene, Fools Gold and You Made Me Realise. For fans of Suede, so long as the full-length version of Stay Together is available on this single, this remains the version to get.