Review Summary: Maybe you can polish suede after all
Suede’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. On the other hand, tickets for the recital of Dog Man Star
, a particular benchmark of British guitar music and most well-received record, saw the resale market go into overdrive, kicking prices up to ten times their original amount.
Although a fine way to bow out overall, it was something of a sad indictment of a group whose tales of urban decay, sleaze, hedonism and graphic sexual mores reached out and grabbed their audience by both their lapels and between their legs. Alas, ennui, consumer apathy and vocalist Brett Anderson’s crippling addictions combined and contrived to ensure that their final two records (including the patchy Head Music
) passed by sans adulation and sales.
Upon the first few listens to Bloodsports
, the easiest thing to do would be to call it a ‘return to form’ (as many have already done) and then pick up from where the bookmark lay in a copy of ‘Cliched Writing For Lazy Bastards’. Bloodsports
is something more simple than a ‘return to form’; in effect, it is Suede, for the most part, doing what they have always been capable of.
is the sound of a band who have rested, recouped and clawed back some of that old time vitality. The album’s opening triple salvo picks up where we left off with 1996’s Coming Up
. “Barriers”, “Snowblind” and “It Starts and Ends With You” are replete with uplifting choruses, call and answer refrains, classic Anderson “la-la-la” bridging, an arrogant stomp and that needling, sci-fi guitar that makes them so easily identifiable.
The real change with Bloodsports
is its lyrics. Gone is the leather clad, hyper sexual aggression that slathered across their early releases. In its place is a more measured approach that explores the ins and outs of the emotional spectrum. “Sabotage” sees Anderson opining that he and an unnamed beau’s ‘love is sabotaged’ while “What Are You Not Telling Me"” carries with it the weight of a long, drawn out relationship that can no longer be patched together by the forgetfulness of youth.
Much has been made of the album’s sequencing; drawing to a close with four consecutive ballads. One review likened it to the many false endings in Return Of The King, but it’s nothing so profound and unnecessary as that. The excellent “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” is a song that could slide very gracefully into Suede’s classics canon. Closer “Faultlines” could very well neatly sum up the past of a band with one of the more cracked histories in modern music.
You get the sense that Suede are playing it by ear, gauging reaction before making another strike. After the dust settles on Bloodsports
it will be interesting to see what their next move is. For the time being though, let’s bask in the return of one of the more curious groups to have existed, and hope that these consummate professionals make this return a long-term affair.