When Suede released their self-titled debut album in 1993, Brett Anderson, the band’s supremely talented frontman, and Bernard Butler, the lead guitarist, were hailed as creative powerhouses who would surely go on to define a generation of British music with their brand of brittle-but-intense alternative rock.
That idea would ultimately prove to be a false prophecy, as Suede found themselves overrun by the altogether more laddish Britpop eruption led by Oasis. Worse was to follow: Butler walked out in 1994, Suede’s early promise withered on the vine, and the band split in 2003.
Now they are back – albeit still without Butler – with a second album of new material in three years.
Night Thoughts – which follows well-received 2013 release Bloodsports – stays true to the classic Suede sound, marrying expansive and intricate guitar work with Anderson’s evocative and exquisite lyrical vignettes, which grub around somewhere between glam and the gutter.
Twenty years ago, Anderson was singing about alienation, fast living and the thrill of the chase. Somehow, the 21st-century Anderson, ably supported on songwriting duties by Neil Codling and Richard Oakes, manages to stay close to many of those same themes without seeming like a man living an existence at odds with his years.
His world is still one of fragile beauty, his life still seemingly in the balance – it is no surprise to find Night Thoughts littered with song titles such as Outsiders, No Tomorrow, Tightrope and I Can’t Give Her What She Wants – even as he wrestles with his transformation from party-loving poet to happily married family man.
The aching for that previous life – or perhaps the concern about what is to come – is still front and centre.
On When You Are Young, Anderson talks of “battle plans and distant drums” and of there being “nothing right and nothing wrong” – but this nostalgia is wedded to a sense of understanding that the bravado of youth often gives way to a more stinging sense of self-awareness in middle age.
“I don’t know the meaning of much, I don’t know the right expressions, I don’t have too much intuition or too many credentials”, he laments on What I’m Trying to Tell You.
There is an inherent danger in comebacks, particularly after a long absence, something that Anderson has acknowledged in recent interviews. Too many bands return with an approximation of their previous sound without any sense that the world might have moved on in their absence.
Night Thoughts treads a more delicate path, offering enough to existing fans to keep them satisfied, while presenting a set of dark but enchanting songs that point to a new era of adoration for Suede.
Source: art & life