Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: Rhino
Night Thoughts is a quintessentially Suede title: specific yet vague, a notion that seems either romantic or sad depending on perspective. Twenty years, a decade of which was spent in a split, certainly has shifted Suede's perspective, particularly that of leader Brett Anderson. In his younger years, Anderson couldn't resist the tragic but as he settles into middle age, his work bears an unmistakable undercurrent of gratitude: no longer racing against a nuclear sunset, he's meditating upon the elongated stillness of night.
There is a strange parallel between Suede and David Bowie. Both made comebacks in 2013 after decade-long absences-the former with Bloodsports, the latter with The Next Day. Both were warmly hailed as successes even if they did not have fans falling over themselves, and it felt fitting given that Suede were probably the closest thing Britpop ever had to Bowie's androgynous outsider.
Reformed Britpop originators create second-era masterpiece. Strings, sacrificial drums, towering atmospherics, running themes, reprises, an accompanying film... As the rest of rock scurries to condense its charms into sync-friendly Shazamable nuggets, Britpop pioneers and eternal outsiders Suede slice gloriously against the grain once more with a grandiose semi-concept seventh album that demands to be consumed as a complete piece of art.
When veteran British rockers Suede released their fifth album A New Morning in September 2002, it should have been obvious to anybody paying attention that the end was in sight. A New Morning is a mess that was savaged by critics and largely derided by those fans who didn’t simply ignore it. Even frontman Brett Anderson has disparaged the album. Perhaps it was fate.
In January 2013, Suede returned from their 13-year hiatus with the announcement of an album, Bloodsports. The news was eclipsed somewhat by another comeback album – The Next Day by David Bowie, the artist’s first in a decade. Fast forward three years, and here poor Suede are again – another album, another overshadowing, blacker than the first.
Suedes’ 2013 comeback album ‘Bloodsports’ triumphed because it was essentially designed as an Idiot’s Guide To Suede. Released 10 years after their initial split, it removed the dirt from their soiled legacy while introducing them to a new generation, taking their trademarks – giant choruses, trashy melodrama – and distilling them into 10 solid, Suede-as-Suede-can-be songs.As a soft reboot, it worked perfectly – and while some bands come unstuck wondering where to go next, tricky follow-ups are a Suede speciality. In 1994, they followed their self-titled debut with the staggeringly ambitious ‘Dog Man Star’, which turned its back on Britpop’s bonhomie and their own tried-and-tested formula in favour of something grander.
Once Suede were the embodiment of decadent, beautiful youth – melodramatic and out to shock. A decade later, they’d lost their glitter and their way, and shortly after 2002’s bland A New Morning, they split up. But they came back, revived, and the first product of their reboot, 2013’s Bloodsports, was a surprising return to form. Night Thoughts is, like Dog Man Star 20 years ago, anything but a “difficult second album”.
With the desperately sad passing of David Bowie it is instructive to consider his lasting influence on British pop music – and it is not long until the name Suede pops up. Few bands formed in last few decades can have fallen under his influence quite so comprehensively, Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson honing their vision for the group to the accompaniment of repeated plays of Quicksand. Yet of the successful acts that took their lead from The Man Who Fell To Earth, few turned those influences into something overwhelmingly theirs.
If you were approaching this album with hopes for ‘Dog Man Star’ mark II, chances are you’ll be disappointed. But Suede have never claimed to be the same band they were twenty-odd years ago. One of the boldest and most controversial successes to emerge out of the ‘90s, the five-piece bring with them a tumultuous history and a world of wisdom.
It’s fair to say that for all its flaws, Bloodsports, the first album released by Suede post-reunion, managed to do exactly what it set out to achieve - close enough to the sound that fans had come to expect, yet with enough spark and vigour to pacify doubters who felt they should have been confined to the Nineties. Now that they’ve firmly re-established themselves in our consciousness, album number seven offers Suede the opportunity to go into hitherto unexplored territories, which they assuredly have done with Night Thoughts. Again produced by regular collaborator Ed Buller, Night Thoughts is not just an album, but also the soundtrack to a film of the same name directed by Roger Sergeant.
“Do I want you because you’re out of reach?” Brett Anderson muses on Like Kids, halfway through Suede’s ambitious seventh album. He could be addressing the other partner in a floundering relationship, or something nameless floating at the fringes of his consciousness. Yearning and anxiety hover over the record – a concept album that begins with a suicide and plays out as the drowning man’s life flashes before his eyes.
The mark of a successful relationship is if its parties can evolve together. Britpop luminaries Suede proved theirs could be built to last when they reunited after a decade apart for Bloodsports in 2013, and lord knows they faced challenges during their ’90s heyday: industry pressure, member turnover (founding guitarist Bernard Butler acrimoniously left after 1994’s Dog Man Star), a frustrating name change (a lounge singer’s early ’90s lawsuit forced them to be billed as “The London Suede” in the U. S.
Expectation when bands reform to release new material is often so low that it's almost in the artist's best interest to simply tour the hits. When Suede reunited in 2010, they had little interest in either fate, and even scrapped an album's worth of material because it wasn't good enough. In the end, they released Bloodsports, an album about "the endless carnal game of love" that was so surprisingly excellent, it rivalled the band's now classic first two albums.Night Thoughts is their second album since the reunion, and seventh overall.
Blackstar isn’t the only album released this month to take on added poignancy in the wake of David Bowie’s passing. Suede are releasing a new album mere weeks after Bowie did the same—just like in March 2013, when both parties released comeback records following decade-long hiatuses. And while the timing may be purely coincidental, it’s an uncanny circumstance for a band that, throughout the '90s, provided the most resounding reminder of Bowie’s early-'70s supremacy, and helped rehabilitate his rep amidst a career nadir for a new generation of pretty things.
Outside the UK, Suede never had the widespread appeal of their Britpop contemporaries Oasis, Pulp, and The Verve. But Suede was arguably the most ambitious of the group. While the Gallagher brothers pretended to be The Beatles and Jarvis Cocker took the role of social commentator, Suede and frontman Brett Anderson worshipped personal romanticism and the profundities of sex and intimacy — like Morrissey and David Bowie before him.
In 2013, David Bowie came out with a new record, and so did Suede. At the time, I thought their comeback was even more impressive than his. Bowie’s The Next Day was a great reevaluation and re-appropriation of what he’d done in the past around the Berlin era, but Suede’s Bloodsports felt like a brand new step in evolution after years of silence.
It's been nearly a quarter of a century since Suede introduced Brit-pop to the world on a 1992 Melody Maker cover that dubbed them "the best new band in Britain." The London outfit went on to release a series of U.K. chart-toppers, only to fall victim to changing tastes toward the end of the Nineties; by the end of the seven-year hiatus that followed, pop culture had all but forgotten about one of the previous decade's most essential alt-glam acts. After Night Thoughts, however, no one will forget Suede: It's their most cohesive album to date, putting a decisively modern twist on their definitive Brit-pop.
There's a feature film to accompany Night Thoughts and the record seems conceived with this in mind. It's given a theme by being bookended with "When You Are Young" and "When You Were Young" (with "The Fur & The Feathers" acting as a coda). It's not that these songs are weak but when it comes to cinematic, we know what Suede are capable of- "Still Life," "The 2 of Us," "The Next Life," even "Seascape"-and these new songs are none of those.
For a band so resolutely showy as Suede, their decision to launch seventh album Night Thoughts last November by playing behind a screen that took over the entire width of the Camden Roundhouse was a bold one. As strings and gigantic drums thundered around the venue, footage blinked into life of a man striding, despairing and defiant, into the sea from a British beach. Then, in a beautiful underwater shot, he drowned.
Britpop survivors Suede avoid falling into the legacy act pit with a loosely conceptual seventh album that harkens back to the melodic heights of their 90s glory days. Inspired by film scores, Night Thoughts pulls that classic move of looking back to move forward. The band recorded it as a single piece of music with long-time producer Ed Buller, and then singer Brett Anderson came in and added lyrics and melodies.
An album with nary a single, tracks segueing into each other, a concept (!) bolstered by an accompanying short film – oh how antiquated! And to hear Suede talk about the qualities of their latest album, Night Thoughts, this is the way things should be – and can be, given the band’s assured financial state and their elder statesmen status. I haven’t seen the film, save for the snippets that serve as videos to the tracks the band has released thus far. However, Suede’s 2013 comeback Bloodsports sets the table nicely for Night Thoughts’ existence on solely its musical merits given that the former also followed a moderately loose, intermittently chronological concept itself, assuring the latter’s same qualities would not prove too jarring, particularly in the absence of its film.
by Elena Badillo It’s hard to imagine that an artist with a remarkably brilliant, decade long musical career has just had a full-length debut. But the timing in Anna Meredith’s Varmints is, at most, as unorthodox as its content and as its author. After spending several years as a successful composer-in-residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Meredith immersed herself into electronic music, eventually starting to experiment with it, blending it with her classical underpinnings.
Over the last two decades and change, the American footprint of the band known in its native UK as Suede has lagged so far behind its British stardom that it can’t even retain its name on US soil. Thus, every Suede album is a return to the spotlight, every London Suede album an introduction. But “Night Thoughts” doesn’t bother distilling Suede’s sympathetic fatalism into an easy invitation like its scene-setting debut (or even 2013’s reunion album, “Bloodsports“).