18 February 2016

Suede - Night Thoughts

Suede (or The London Suede as they are known in America) are an act that can cause a little bit of tension amongst the blog team; basically it boils down to this - I hold them in high regard, the rest of the team say words that if I was to print them, could be considered noteworthy in a high court case for them getting sued for slander (especially from Jerm).  Whilst I think they are all wrong, I also think it is healthy that a band like Suede exist and that I have yet to meet someone who thought they were just alright; it is either devotion or hatred with this band. This is their second release since they reformed in 2010 and their seventh overall, it has been praised by various websites and publications before it was released and I am a little cautious here.  This is mainly due to the fact I have recently found myself listening to 'Dog Man Star' after many years and that is their high water mark for me; so I will undoubtedly be comparing this to their earlier works and this seems unfair as it has been many moons since those releases.  This album is produced by Ed Buller (who produced their earlier albums), keyboardist Neil Colding and Paul-Edouard Laurendeau, so it is a multi-produced album which usually means doom for your blogger; but I am willing to give this a go. The cover is a beautiful image of someone either falling in the void, to sleep or into water, it is an image that captures your attention straight away - will the music match the image and will producer Ed Buller be able to work his magic with the band again?

"When You Are Young" starts with the album with a sea of strings giving the impression of flight over a darkness of an unnamed city, you get the feeling that the night has potential and who knows what is to come.  When the guitar kicks in, it has a cinematic feeling and the movie starts to form in your head; but when the chorus hits it just takes all the air out of the sails and it becomes a little hollow to these ears.  But the verse kicks back in and the song gains its momentum back until we get another chorus which fades with a sudden build up into the first song to be released as a single off this album - "Outsiders". Now this is a song that I have played on my radio show, it is a good song but I have to say that on this album it is possibly one of the poorest song on the album.  It is a big number that is just a little too obvious for the band, it feels by the numbers to these ears (even with an epic chorus that I can imagine will be going down a storm on their current live shows). However, you should consider this; if this is the poorest song on the album and I played it on my radio show, how good is the rest of the album?  "No Tomorrow" follows on and it harks back to the sound of 'Coming Up', especially the song "New Generation".  It has a rock 'n' roll rebellious streak going through the song, but mixed with age and maturity that is steeped in the knowledge that this sphere is not going to be your home much longer.  It is not an epic song, it is not one that will reach the heights of their previous hits; but this is where I find Suede at their best - when they create little gems of reflective stories and they sound more alive than they did at the end of their last shows.  I love the line about not wearing tracksuit pants and knowing all their neighbours’ cars, it is storytelling 101 and it sounds majestic.  "Pale Snow" starts with the keyboard leading the way with mournful sound as the guitar slowly tolls in the background.  It is a heart break this number that is feels as if it could have (and should have) been expanded.  The song itself is sound, it has a sound that is reminiscent of "The 2 of Us" from 'Dog Man Star' and it feels like an extension of that number to be honest.  But it is sadly too short and ends before it is ready to finish in my opinion, however it feels as if it was necessary when you get to the next song.

"I Don't Know How to Reach You" follows on and this is a six-minute epic that "Pale Snow" prepares the audience for, it is one of those moments where a band create a song that seems so obvious in hindsight and so original that it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.  It is full of regret, sorrow and yearning that it is hard not to read more into the words when you are listening to it.  Could it be about ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler? could it be about one of Brett Anderson's previous lovers? In all honesty, it really does not matter as the song itself is fantastic with a brilliant set of verse, a fantastic ending and one of the best choruses I have heard in 2016 - hands down, this is the song of the album and worth the price of the album just for this one song.  Following on from that dizzy pinnacle Suede come up with "What I Am Trying to Tell You", a song what deals with exasperation and being not being able to get one's point across when someone is heading towards the exit.  It is a decent enough number which will probably go down a storm live, but much like "Outsiders" it is trying too hard and it feels slightly tired.  Also it reminds me of an older version of "The Beautiful Ones", it seems as if Suede are revisiting a lot of their back catalogue on this album.  “Tightrope” comes across as a Bond theme for a 007 film that has yet to be produced, but not in the same way that Adele & Sam Smith completed.  It is a heart-breaking number about falling off the wire that is your balanced life, about everything slipping through your fingers and the tension surrounding it all.  It is a gorgeous number that will make the weak at heart weep and the hardest heart feel more pain that they will be willing to admit.  It is another number that Suede do so well, thankfully it is done with enough flair and originality that makes it stand out from this already anthem heavy album.  “Learning to Be” sounds like a nightmare in neon that Suede always seem to make their own, the nights are thick with a tense atmosphere and the shadows are coming with trouble in mind.  It is a dark song, there is little hope or joy that be found in this tune and you would be forgiven for thinking this was a song that would not be one to return to; but this is Suede and this is where they excel and it is because they shine the light where it is not meant to be seen that they create this unlovable image of the world after dark and you would not have it any other way.  Again, it is a song that could have been stretched a bit longer for my tastes, but it is still a subtly beautiful number.

The final third of this album starts with “Like Kids” and the band are bringing out their glam rock side on this number, it is a huge riff that heralds this song in from the void and it is followed by one of those songs which you know will become an anthem in years to come.  It is a massive number that makes the years pass and brings the rose tinted glasses down on your mind’s eye.  Make no mistake about it, there is still experience, sorrow and a reflective narrative to the song which has been the underpinning of this album, but on this number it feels as if there is an ounce of hope and light to the number; however, the kids chorus at the end is slightly over cooking it.  “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants” is a haunting song, in the same sort of style of “The Big Time” (a B-side from “Animal Nitrate”) which sounds like the aftermath of an argument and the glass cannot be reformed into a solid whole once more.  The band give a bleak and atmospheric performance, with space for the mood to linger and affect the listener in a deeper way than your average song.  This is the sort of song that Suede have mastered many moons ago and it is crafted by masters.  The penultimate song is called “When You Were Young” which is basically a shadow repetition of the earlier “When You Are Young” with a small sample of someone talking about the youth and when Brett Anderson sings, it is all in the past tense.  It is a decent enough piece, nice and short and does not lessen the impact of the original; instead it brings a sense of reflection to the album, re-emphasizing the ongoing theme of the album.  “The Fur & The Feathers” ends the album with a grand statement of love, fear, excitement and above all this, drama.  It is a song that thrives in the chase and lives for the moments when everything is unknown and it is all yet to come.  It sounds as if all this is both to come and yet to pass as well, it is can be read in both ways which makes you wonder if there is an affair going on or if this is a metaphor for trying to re-connect with your old life.  It is a dramatic ending to the album, it feels like crescendos are falling down from the band like leaves in autumn and it gives the album a much needed sense of closer.

This album is a beautiful piece of work, it sounds as if Suede phase II is finding a new inspiration from their previous sound and they sound as tight as ever.  However, this album has a massive melancholic streak running through every part of the album.  The way it feels as if the man is trying on his old clothes and finding that they sort of fit, but it is not really the same and everything has changed in ways that are more obvious than just the material on his back.  It is essentially the night out when you should have gone home, but the call of your youth is too strong; because of this feeling, it has a different drive to what other Suede records had.  However, it also shows that they have grown into other part of their style which they have always sort of struggled with; the slower numbers now sound like wisdom, instead of the sounds of a young man not getting his own way.  Age is sometimes hard on a band, this sounds as if Suede are slowly understanding that age is not their best friend, but that there are other ways to deal with it.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - I Don't Know How to Reach You

You can purchase Night Thoughts on Amazon here

You can visit the Suede website here

You can follow the activities of Suede on Facebook here

You can stream Night Thoughts on Deezer here

You can stream Night Thoughts on Tidal here

You can stream Night Thoughts on Spotify here

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