Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: INgrooves
Boomingly melodic, professionally polished and radiating rude health, Suede's sixth album consciously and successfully address the mistakes made in the band's post-Coming Up decline. Basically, Bloodsports doesn't sound anybody involved in its creation was gomped out on crack. Beyond that - though not unconnected, one suspects - it's just a matter of common sense.
Suede didn't so much disband as unravel. Racked by too many indulgences and addictions, the group faded away in the early years of the new millennium, leaving behind a somewhat tarnished conclusion to what was a glorious career. Brett Anderson slowly got himself back on track, first reuniting with original Suede guitarist Bernard Butler for the rather excellent one-shot band the Tears, then carving out a contemplative solo identity where much of the squalor, sex, and grime of Suede was stripped away, leaving behind contemplative pop and broken-hearted ruminations.
The first thing you might think to yourself once Bloodsports starts is “Why does Suede sound like British Sea Power now?” Brett Anderson’s distinctive squeal aside, opening cut “Barriers” evidences the shimmering, modernist post-punk inclinations that generously informed the singer’s 2011 solo outing Black Rainbows. At least we know what the group’s been listening to recently. On a less jocular note, a listen to Suede’s first album in over a decade will probably elicit immediate thoughts more along the lines of “boy, this record is really damn good”.
Rare is the comeback album that makes you want to return to the old records so you can carry on listening, rather than because you need a reminder of how good the group used to be. But Suede's sixth album, 11 years after their underwhelming fifth, is a bit of a treat. From the opening Barriers it bristles with confidence and certainty, even if it is oddly sequenced, finishing with four consecutive ballads, each of which are fine in their own right – especially the breathtaking Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away – but create a Return of the King-style series of false endings.
Suede's comeback album is far better than it should be. Those who argue that this is just a retread of their early glory years are not being completely unfair. However, the band's grandiose glam pop was never particularly modern back then, so why would they suddenly become futuristic visionaries at this late point in their career? It makes more sense to evaluate Bloodsports on how well it fulfills the role of a Suede album, which it does quite well.
The enfants terribles of the Britpop era are back—a little softer around the edges and a little older around the eyes. Their first album in a decade is a stately, more considered effort. Nonetheless, Bloodsports still thrums with the darkness and danger that made the fivesome’s early records so worthy of your absolute allegiance. “Snowblind” and “Hit Me” are a continuation of Coming Up’s gritty, glitzy, glammy pop, while the soaring “For the Strangers” aims to supplant “Saturday Night” as the band’s sing-along set closer.
Given the reliability of 20-year nostalgia cycles, the reunion of Suede-- or, here in litigation-crazy America, the London Suede-- was inevitable. A new Suede album, however, was not. Mere months after the Britpop progenitors embarked upon a well-received greatest hits revue in 2011, frontman Brett Anderson had returned to his decade-long practice of releasing small-scale solo albums, while a concurrent, exhaustive reissue of Suede’s back catalogue seemingly confirmed the reunion’s retrospective impetus.
Review Summary: Maybe you can polish suede after allSuede’s initial commercial and creative decline is fairly well documented in the British music press. Not long before bowing out in the early to mid-2000s, the five piece booked a five-night farewell residency in London, playing each of their five albums one night after another in full.The second hand ticket market for those gigs read like a digital tarot deck. For the run through of their last record, the forgetful and disappointing A New Morning ended up being hawked for less than their original asking price.
The cover of Melody Maker, April 1992: “Suede, The Best New Band In Britain”.
Picture Brett Anderson. Now picture Brett Anderson a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (2002, to be precise). Picture a Brett Anderson who, just like fellow loveable but flawed ne’er-do-well Han Solo, has been frozen in carbonite – both as a punishment for wrongdoing (that year’s album ‘A New Morning’), and to stop him unleashing any more evil unto the world (a follow-up to ‘A New Morning’).
You have to feel sorry for Suede. The excitement inspired by their explosion onto the scene in 1992 which saw them memorably hailed as “The Best New Band in Britain” had, by their implosion in 2003, turned into widespread derision and, worse, indifference. In subsequent years the former members engaged in a motley variety of activities, from Brett Anderson’s misfiring reunion with former member Bernard Butler in The Tears and low-key solo career to launching obscure bands (Richard Oakes’ Artmagic) and joining existing ones (Simon Gilbert and Bangkok’s Futon).
Hindsight is a very powerful idea. There are an infinite number of alternative histories of popular music where artists, labels and the public did things differently. How would the musical landscape look now if Bob Dylan had been dropped by Columbia after his first album? What if Lennon and McCartney had never met? What if – and let’s dare to dream for a second – LMFAO were still together? One particular scenario that’s bubbled to the surface over the past fifteen years or so concerns Britpop forebearers Suede – just how would the group be revered if they’d called time on their career three records in? That opening trio of albums – Suede (1993), Dog Man Star (1994) and Coming Up (1996) – encapsulated Suede; a band full of melody, wit and intrigue.
On their first album in 11 years, a re-formed and revitalised Suede appear to have succeeded in turning the clock back to 1996. Snowblind and the excellent Hit Me in particular reprise the thrilling pop dynamics of Trash and Beautiful Ones to fine effect. Brett Anderson's lyrics, meanwhile, so ridiculed during the late 1990s at the peak of his crack problem, are full of evocative imagery again, rather than sounding merely infantile.
Hunky-dory Bloodsports heralds the welcome return of British band Suede after an over-10-year absence from the music scene. Who would have thought that a band that made its name during the heady years of the 1990s, when Britpop ruled the U. K.
Early in 2003, with punk-funk in their ears, everyone quietly stopped talking about Suede. Sometime between the release of fifth album A New Morning late the previous year, and CDs of that famously iffy work appearing in portentous metre-high towers on the floor of Fopp, selling – or rather pointedly not selling – for £1 a pop, even the most ardent apologists gave up. Suede were spent, exhausted, a dried up, drugged up, hollowed out husk.
"I've always thought that the strangest thing I've ever heard is 'we're making music for ourselves and if anyone else likes it it's a bonus'. Why did you fucking release it then?" said Suede bassist Mat Osman when I interviewed him for the Quietus recently. "We're making music for other people, and if we like it it's a bonus." It's a typically Suede statement, sniffy and arch, the sort of thing that has always made them stand out a country mile from their peers, and those who have come since...
A passionate and seductive album which reminds us how distinctive this band can be. Jaime Gill 2013 The last time as much was at stake on a Suede album as Bloodsports, it was 1996, they’d just sacked guitarist Bernard Butler and critics dismissed the beleaguered band as overhyped or just plain over. The result was the glittering Coming Up, the band’s revenge, commercial apogee and – unknown to everyone – the beginning of a long, drawn-out decline.
If not quite the unluckiest band in history, the story of Suede suggests that they’ve smashed a few mirrors during their twenty odd year career. In singer Brett Anderson’s own words they “kicked the fucking door in” to herald the beginning of Britpop, only for Blur and Oasis to take up the baton whilst they were sidelined by monumental drug abuse and the departure of guitarist and songwriter Bernard Butler. Even with the release of ‘Bloodsports’, Suede’s first album since the band’s reformation in 2010, their luck doesn’t appear to have changed - lead singles ‘Barriers’ and ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ were both overshadowed somewhat by surprise releases from David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine respectively.