We’re super excited about the return of Suede, both because their new single “Barriers” is really great and because, honestly, we’re hoping for some sort of glam re-revival in the year to come — surely it’s time for the return of bands whose ambitions extend beyond bedroom laptoptronica and/or determinedly anonymous we-just-do-what-we-do-and-possibly-have-beards indie? Hey, David Bowie’s surprise album announcement certainly can’t hurt the possibility of a glitter resurgence, either! While we wait, we’ve been digging out our old Suede CDs and also exhuming other examples of glam rock from after the genre’s mid-’70s golden age. Here are some of our favorites — what are yours?
Suede — Dog Man Star
There’s an argument to be made for the first Suede record here, but we’re going with the majestically overblown glory of their enduring masterpiece. In essence, glam has always been about creating a world to transcend urban drudgery, about looking for “constellations in the mould in the coffee cup,” in bassist Mat Osman’s Oscar Wilde-esque phrase. Dog Man Star did that and then some, creating an entire universe of dissipated glamor in the living room of Brett Anderson’s basement apartment.
U.S. Girls — Gem
Female-fronted neo-glam for the 21st century, and one of the most underrated albums of 2012. As an aside, someone needs to write a thinkpiece about why there are so few female-fronted glam bands.
Placebo — Placebo
The other great signifier of glam is its embrace of sexual ambiguity and self-expression. Placebo captured this perfectly — a trio that embodied perfect sexual symmetry, like some sort of twisted back-alley boy band, encompassing one gay guy, one straight guy, and one rapacious pint-sized sex machine who’d fuck you and your girlfriend/boyfriend. Their first album is still their best, a blast of buzzsawing guitars and glammed-up liberation that sounds like dressing up, sneaking out the window to hit the bad part of town, and not caring what happens when you get there.
The Darkness — Permission to Land
Glam was also silly. This was silly. Very, very silly. Especially Frankie Poullain’s moustache. (As an aside: Frankie Poullain is now 45 YEARS OLD.)
Manic Street Preachers — Generation Terrorists
When we say glam was silly, though, we do mean it. The thing that people perhaps tend to overlook about the genre and its progenitors is that the whole point of glam is that it means not being afraid to make a fool of yourself — a point that certainly wasn’t lost on the early-career Manics, who emerged from a Welsh town in the middle of nowhere in paint-spattered leopard print and eyeliner, ranting about politics and philosophy and Sylvia Plath. Absurd? Absolutely. And all the better for it.
Pink Grease — This Is for Real
Even more gloriously absurd were short-lived quintet Pink Grease, who came romping out of Sheffield wielding a home-made synth called “The Machine,” a suitcase full of makeup, and some of the best party tunes of the 2000s. Their debut album remains an under-appreciated classic — their career sadly flared out after Mute dropped them before the release of their second record, but boy were they fun while they lasted. (These days, singer Rory Lewarne has a great new band called White Witches and synth wizard Nick Collier sells crazy-looking homemade synths right here.)
The Dandy Warhols — …The Dandy Warhols Come Down
Of course, it’s not just UK bands who re-embraced glam in the 1990s and beyond — The Dandy Warhols’ name rather betrayed their stylistic preoccupations, and they glammed it up for all they were worth on their second album (and particularly in the David LaChapelle-directed video for “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth, an exercise that won them Brian Jonestown Massacre mastermind Anton Newcombe’s enmity.)
Marilyn Manson — Mechanical Animals
Also on this side of the Atlantic, Manson’s similarities to schlock-rock forebear Alice Cooper have been well-documented, and this record documents his most overtly glam-influenced period. It’s based around the story of an alien and alienated glam singer who’s marooned on Earth (not at all like Ziggy Stardust ahem ahem), and the disconnection he feels from the “real” world and the “mechanical animals” that populate it. The album’s music is a lot less industrial and goth-influenced than its predecessor, Antichrist Superstar, aping ’70s Bowie and T-Rex for all it’s worth, with surprisingly good results.
Of Montreal — Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
In which Kevin Barnes metamorphoses into a 40-year-old transsexual glam star. Georgie Fruit, ahoy!
Lady Gaga — The Fame Monster
And finally, hate on us as much as you like, but it’s difficult to refute the argument that the single most glam-influenced pop album of the last few years has been made by none other than La Gaga, whose embrace of the genre’s stylistic conceits and theatrical songwriting has done very well for her indeed. Call it contrived and/or cynical if you like — we’re not sure we’d entirely disagree with you — but still, if it introduces the Little Monsters to a new genre, then some good has come of all this unpleasantness.