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Review: Suede Dog Man Star: 20th Anniversary super deluxe box set

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Let’s be honest, Edsel were probably regretting putting quite so much content on their 2011 deluxe reissue of Suede‘s 1994 album Dog Man Star when they sat down to discuss a possible 20th anniversary set only a few years down the line.

The previous 2CD+DVD reissue crammed in an incredible amount of content, including all the B-sides/extra tracks, unreleased demos, fan-club only bonus tracks, rare live footage on the DVD and Messrs Anderson and Butler on camera discussing the making of the record. It wasn’t perfect; the ‘long’ version of non-album single Stay Together was slightly edited, some thought the remastering a bit ‘hot’ and those fragile spines on the digi-packs were prone to creasing, but for the most part Suede fans were in dreamland and it was an amazing package.

A super deluxe edition box set was confirmed in August and the question is, having given the band’s loyal followers so much for as little as £13, what can the label offer them for £100 that will make the investment seem worthwhile?

In terms of actual audio the answer is, in truth, not very much. In fact, not only is there no new audio (i.e. previously unreleased material) on this new anniversary set, there is actually LESS than on the previous deluxe reissue. For reasons unknown, the five demos that appended the album on CD 1 of the 2011 deluxe are missing from this big box. To make it clear there are only two CDs in this new box and they replicate the CDs in the old deluxe minus the demos. One bit of good news is that Stay Together is the FULL unedited long version not the slight edit from 2011.

Let’s not be too hard on Edsel with regards to content. They can’t ‘magic’ rarities from thin air and perhaps in hindsight the 2011 deluxe was rather a premature ejaculation of bonus material. The label should have held back and waited until this anniversary year for the (£100) money shot.

That reality has meant that this new set has become about presentation, formats, cute ideas – literally repackaging familiar songs in newish surroundings. So we get the album on CD (with the bonus disc), cassette tape and hi-res Pure Audio blu-ray audio. We even find a songbook amongst the contents containing five tracks from the album in PVG (piano-vocal-guitar) and ‘tab’ format. Speaking of which, in case my Dog Man Star loving credentials are in doubt, I own the original Dog Man Star music book and unlike the one included here it has ALL the songs from the album. Have a look at the photo below:

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Original music book on the left, book within the new box set on the right

A close examination raises the question, what colour is the Dog Man Star front cover supposed to be? That original ’94 music book has a not unappealing brownish hue whereas the new Edsel cover art has a much more greeny-yellow feel. I dug out some of the old CDs for further investigation.

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Compare colour tints  (click to enlarge)

The original CD booklet again has far less yellow and green in it. Look closely at the window bay – it was a white-cream colour. I personally prefer the look and feel of the original and even between the two Edsels there is a significant difference with much more yellow in the 2011 deluxe. Is this nitpicking about the cover important? Well, yes. If you are going to create some kind of ‘ultimate’ edition of an album then surely it is very important to try and recreate or reproduce the original front cover accurately. That’s not to say that what is presented here isn’t necessarily correct. Perhaps the printers got the original CD booklet ‘wrong’ and the Edsel is now correct. Either way, would the real Dog Man Star please step forward?

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As well as the formats mentioned above, the 20th anniversary box set comes with four vinyl records (although not the actual album on LP) including a one-sided seven-inch recreation of the NME flexi-disc from 8 October 1994. There’s nothing flexible about this heavyweight pressing, and a rather bored sounding Brett talks through a few of the tracks. Not particularly enlightening it has to be said, although to be fair the music and the stories behind each song have been told many times since. I’m not sure if the original tapes were available or not, but I’d guess not since the quality of this is a little bit lacking.

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The other vinyl consists of reproductions of three twelve-inch singles.These are non-album single Stay Together (a lovely gatefold) and the first two Dog Man Star 45s We Are The Pigs and The Wild Ones (both peaked at number 18 fact fans!). These are decent reproductions although they really should have had poly-lined sleeves. New Generation isn’t included simply because there was nothing new on those singles co-penned by Bernard Butler and like the 2011 reissue, this celebration of the album is again focussed on the Butler-Anderson partnership.

This distinction is both logical and illogical. Yes, it’s neat and tidy, but that doesn’t reflect the actual history. Together was after all promoted as a double ‘A’ side with New Generation, a DOG MAN STAR single.  The twelve-inch and CD single also contained Bentswood Boys. Both of these were written by Brett Anderson and new guitarist Richard Oakes and both are missing from this set (as they were from the 2011 reissue). The fact is that the Dog Man Star era didn’t end with a clean straight line – there was a messy overlap with Oakes appearing on singles and of course performing on the Dog Man Star tour of 1994/5. In trying to tidy up the messiness of the division between Dog Man Star/Bernard Butler and Coming Up/Richard Oakes Suede and Edsel have created an imperfect and not a not really comprehensive summation of the Dog Man Star era. If you wanted to be provocative you could say they are guilty of rewriting history.

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The 52-page hardback book is nicely done with lyrics to all the songs (including the bonus tracks), scans of handwritten lyric sheets, Brett’s track-by-track guide to the album, and a look at the various sleeve designs. It does lack a little depth though, if you compare it to some of the best books in similar super deluxe sets (I’m thinking about the McCartney tomes or perhaps The Who Quadrophenia / Tommy).

A DVD included with this set repeats the Tour Films and Stay Together promo video but omits all the live performances. There are some new interviews, the most interesting of which is Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler talking to Pete Paphides, going through the album track-by-track. This lasts for almost 50 minutes and like the other interview on the 2011 reissue it’s fascinating watching the pair talk about the record. Butler is far more interesting and articulate than Anderson, it has to be said, and there is definitely a perceptible level of awkwardness between the former songwriting partners. The DVD also contains a few TV appearances including two performances of Stay Together on Top of the Pops. The other videos (or Top of the Pops appearances) aren’t included for the Bernard-Butler-wasn’t-involved reasons explored above.

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DVD in card wallet (left) CDs on the right

Other content in the 20th anniversary box includes a poster, an art print with the cover and a plastic bag (the T. Rex Slider box had one too).

The big question is how does the Pure Audio blu-ray sound? I compared Heroine with the original CD and to be frank the 1994 CD sounded muffled and blurayhorrible in comparison although there was a lot of ‘splashy’ cymbals on the blu-ray. The Wild Ones, surprisingly, didn’t sound that different, but the more pertinent comparison between the 2011 remaster and the blu-ray revealed little audible difference to these ears. Scratch that – they sounded identical. As a fan of hi-res audio this was a rather disappointing although perhaps not too surprising since they do share the same remastering.

Surely the hi-res blu-ray format would have been best served with a proper ‘audiophile’ remaster of the source material, or even better, why not get Bernard Butler to do a ‘director’s cut’ version of the album?  A full remix that is more in line with his original aural vision. He’s on record as complaining about Ed Buller’s production. Of course a 5.1 surround sound mix would have been also most welcome.

The issue with this box is that in terms of music and video nothing included can honestly rank as ‘must have’ material, because anyone contemplating a purchase will surely already have the 2011 deluxe reissue which includes almost all the audio here (and some extra). If you don’t own that, then no doubt about it, this box comes highly recommended, but one strongly suspects that that is not the reality. On the other hand the outlay for the first reissue was relatively small, so if you ‘write off’ that purchase and fool your brain into thinking that *this* is the real reissue then the big box, lavish book, heavyweight vinyl, art print and all the rest of the content is definitely a cool way to celebrate the album.

As usual it will come down to how much of a fan of the band you are and how much enjoyment you’ll get out of the physicality of this set, but ironically the biggest Suede fans are likely to be the most disappointed.

Suede’s Dog Man Star 20th anniversary super deluxe box is out now.


Pre-order exclusive box set version (limited to 500)

Pre-order standard box set version


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23 responses to Review: Suede Dog Man Star: 20th Anniversary super deluxe box set

  1. I think Ed Buller is on record saying he wasn’t happy with the mix either. So yeah, some kind of remix would’ve certainly been an incentive to buy. A Bernard remix and maybe an Ed Buller 5.1? Suede also performed the LP at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year with strings, brass etc. Maybe a recording of that gig or even a DVD would’ve also been great (although, sadly, that probably falls into no-Oakes rule).

    Although, in a way, I’m glad there’s nothing new as I can’t afford it anyway.

  2. Ron says:

    You have hit the nail on the head with your comments about the Pure Audio Bluray.

    Unless a specifically ‘new’ audiophile remaster is prepared then the master used on the Bluray will sound no different to the same master on CD. That goes for any HFPA release.

    The only benefit HFPA has over CD at the moment is if they contain a 5.1 mix because I am not aware of any remasters prepared specifically for a HFPA release to make use of the format.

    HFPA is a bit of a con in all honesty.

  3. Peter says:

    I got mine from Suede store, red cover number 330 of 500.

    The quality is exceptional, not the music, in terms of remastered etc.

    I did not get the 2011 issues, but think of getting this one and a vinyl version and sticking them in this box. Then Dog Man Star, the history !!!

  4. Piotr says:

    Thanks for your comprehensive review Paul. I did have this on pre-order but I cancelled with around 1 week to release date, as I felt the box did not represent value for money as far as content was concerned. Having read your review I now feel I made the right decision.

  5. Eamonn says:

    “Let’s not be too hard on Edsel with regards to content. They can’t ‘magic’ rarities from thin air…”
    They can’t, but I’m pretty sure Bernard Butler can!

    He allowed 6Music to play an excerpt from his original 4-track of Black Or Blue (then called ”Jazzy” – can be found on youtube) on a programme about his work as a producer a few years ago and it was rather oddly left-off the 2011 reissue which contained other demos (including a much-more Bernard-stamped The Power (then ‘Banana Youth but which, to these years, seems to commit a horrible rewriting history sin of including modern-day vox of Brett – check his voice on the other demos and there is a notable difference in timbre).

    I think it’s safe to assume there are other outtakes from the sessions (I believe Bernard mentions in the interview, an early, long-instrumental heavy version of the fabled Asphalt World which exists (not the cut and splice minute version on the 2011 reissue) and there are indications that early versions of Whipsnade (then ”Plinky Plonk”) and This Hollywood Life (”Trashy”) were also made.

    The ”Losing Myself” (New Generation) demo was an ITunes-exclusive to the 2011 set, that also could have been included here for completeness (licensing issues notwithstanding).

    They also could have released the Feb 1994 radio recording of their show in Blackpool and the session they did with Mark Radcliffe on Radio 1 the week Stay Together came out. The DVD content could have been expanded to include the fantastic early acoustic performance of Still Life on Naked City, the fine ‘Opening Shots’ Channel4 doc broadcast on New Year’s Day 1994 among other things. Ok, it’s youtubeable but a cleaning-up and marked for posterity generous collection of tv clips would have been much preferable to another rehash of the DMS tour backdrop videos. They did include that one clip from The Ozone so chances are they reviewed all the footage from the time and had a limited budget to pay the original broadcasters

    This superdeluxe version has a strong whiff of money-grabbing. I think the omission from the set of DMS on vinyl is very sneaky. Clearly, it must be selling pretty well on its own so they’d rather keep that separate and sell us two formats, cassette and blu-ray which are obsolete and never going to catch-on respectively.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Good points. Suede own all their own stuff so they must have decided that they didn’t want the demos on this…

  6. probablyrustin says:

    surprised the set doesn’t even include the vinyl. repeating content and formats doesn’t seem to be an issue with the rest of the material included here!

    paul, i have to disagree in some sense with your comment that they “should have saved” some content for this 20th anniversary. from a cynical record label perspective, sure, they could have held back a bit. but should they have skimped, with a plan to double dip soon after, and jack up the prices to crazy amounts (100 vs. 13 pounds is a wide gulf) just to get a decent amount of bonus material? i don’t really think so… then they’d just be in line with the greediest of the industry (thinking pink floyd remasters, etc.) rather than setting an example of how to do reissues right, and in an appealing way for fans, which their 2011 campaign really established.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The point was if you put yourself in Edsel’s shoes they’ve created one set which gives you everything (video and audio) that is cheap and another set that gives you virtually nothing (above what you already have), that is very expensive. That’s just the way it has worked out largely because a 20th anniversary box was clearly not on the agenda back in 2011.

      Even if the first DMS had 65% of what it ended up with that wouldn’t have been skimping and there would have been more exclusive stuff for the box.

  7. Gabriel says:

    Brilliant review Paul Sinclair..I owned of all deluxe edition of 2011 so.. it looks like ..A beatiful Box Set…to put inside the Deluxe Edition 2011…and Dog..2 vinyls remastered. .

  8. Broke Suede Fan says:

    They learned their lesson and are saving all the real goods for the for the £500 25th Anniversary SUPER DUPER Deluxe Special Limited Exclusive Elusive Edition!

  9. Dean says:

    I’ve got to say, I disagree with some of Paul’s comments here. He insinuates they gave too much in the original deluze release, and things should have been held back in order for the label to charge £100 for it.

    Wrong! We should rejoice when fans (and as it happens, I haven’t the least bit of interest in this title) get all that they want at a bargain price – not feel sorry for a label when they try to put a £100 box together and nothing additional could be found.

    Perhaps the bottom line for this one was – it simp0ly doesn’t merit the £100 treatment? I mean, content wise (not quality, which is subjective).

    Bring on more reasonably priced COMPLETE releases. If labels want to do a huge box at the £100 price mark – then they need to work hard above and beyond the track listing. I can’t see how there is any sympathy for the label in question – that they offer less in musical terms on the CD’s says it all, really.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi Dean – it’s not sympathy for the label, it’s sympathy for fans who feel obliged to buy the box (as hardcore Suede fans) and get very little of substance for their money. The other thing to consider is that profits from high margin products like this box help create the brilliant 3CD+DVD type sets that Edsel are so good at putting out at highly competitive prices. I want Edsel to product GREAT cheap sets AND GREAT expensive sets. They’ve only really done one of those things with Dog Man Star. Having said all that perhaps the box has been very successful and everyone is more or less happy.

      YOu’ve probably hit the nail on the head though – I don’t think it merited the £100 treatment unless they’d been more creative about new content. E.g. New Butler stereo remix, 5.1, more unheard demos, etc.

  10. Paul English says:

    Is there space in the box to store the vinyl pressing of Dog Man Star and the 2011 double CD reissue?

    • Martyn Alner says:

      Hi Paul,

      Yes I reckon you can get the vinyl in there. I have put my 2 RSD 7″ singles in with no problem. DMS is a great album, which is why I bought the Red version of the Box (And I have the 2 disc CDs from 2011).

      As my first Blu-ray audio purchase I have to say I thought the sound was excellent on that. certainly heard things I’d not before, but I’ve not compared with the CDs.

      I agree the price is high for this, the cassette is an odd option, but am generally pleased with the box as a celebration.

  11. auteur55 says:

    I’m still salivating over the 2011 reissue which was masterful (except all the demos belong on a separate disc not after the album) and it gave me everything I need. So won’t be buying but I’m glad vinyl heads have something over priced to purchase if they want.

  12. Craig says:

    DMS is one of my favourite albums of all time so when this was announced I was all ready to pre-order but once I read the contents I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Talk about underwhelmed!
    Having said that I’m still desperately trying to justify a purchase such is my love of the album.

  13. Mr Tim says:

    ‘A premiture ejaculation of bonus material’ ! ‘money shots’?… just for a minute i thought i was ‘back wheels’ deep into a Frankie goes to Hollywood review…
    However again excellant stuff, and many thanks. if i buy or not its still got me dusting down the original album and listening to it (which i havent for years) and remembering how good it was and they were.
    This is why i check out this site so often, time and again i get ‘oh yeah..that album, or even that band’ moments and rediscover stuff that is gathering dust on the shelf and in my tiny mind.
    Listening to tears for fears alot now too, for that as well. Thanks.

  14. Dean says:

    Hey Paul – I have a fair number of Edsel discs. They’re doing a fine job. I don’t expect everything to be £10 and stacked – but things are going in the wrong direction if a Super Deluxe box set has less music than the earlier release.

    Having said that, I’ve bought Bowie albums over and over – some with bonus material, with the latest and greatest (Ziggy and Aladin Sane) with all the extras stripped out. I guess it comes down to how much you like the album and artist to a large extent.

    But when a label does something right – as they seem to in 2011 in this case – let’s celebrate it. They set the bar high it seems, but that’s the challenge.

  15. Arnaldo says:

    Hi Paul,
    I just received my box set today and agree with most of your review. Having purchased all of the 2011 reissues I hesitated for a while at ordering the box set. However, after admitting to myself that DMS is not only my favorite Suede album but also one of my all time favorite albums, I gave in and took the plunge. In addition to all the shortcomings and absences you already mentioned, I also have a few issues with the quality of the 12″ covers. (Yes I’m a stickler for the accuracy of “replicas’!) If I’m not mistaken the original 12″s were glossy, the ones in the box set are matte. And most importantly Wild Ones 12″ came with an “embossed band photo” insert. But of course, since they are re-writing history, it was omitted here because it portrayed the line-up w/Richard Oakes. A nice touch would have been the hype stickers on the vinyls as well, like what Rhino did for The Smiths Complete box. And of course it falls short for the exclusion of the LP format. I guess I’ll have to buy DMS for the 4th time, on vinyl!

  16. Iain McCarthy says:

    Regarding the 2011 Deluxe set, did anyone else have a problem playing the Bernard/Brett interview on the DVD? I have had two copies and neither of them will play the interview on any player i try. I have tried contacting Edsel on a few occasions, but have had no response.

  17. Renato says:

    Hey :)
    How come you called the 2011 edition “a premature ejaculation of bonus material”? It was the perfect reissue! I, for one, absolutely hate being forced to buy the same album over and over again just for one or two bonus tracks. So, no, the 2011 version wasn’t a premature ejaculation… it was honest, for once. Every reissue should be like it.

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