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.
For those who missed it on its initial release, ‘Barriers’ opens the album and is fairly indicative of the first half of the record. Unmistakably Suede, the first six tracks all sound like a more muscular version of the glam racket the band explored on their most commercially successful album, 1996’s ‘Coming up’. ‘Snowblind’ may share its title with a Black Sabbath song, but it’s basically a recycled version of their own single ‘Trash’. Inevitably a 45-year-old Anderson is no longer singing about ‘shaking his bits to the hits’ - instead we get more prosaic lyrics about ‘lips like semaphore’ (‘For the Strangers’) or ‘a touch like a raven’s shadow’ (‘Sabotage’), but for the most part it’s disappointingly familiar.
The second half of the record is more downbeat, and yet demonstrates far more imagination than the first. ‘What Are You Not Telling Me?’ is almost ambient house as Brett channels his inner Kate Bush over layers of keyboards and strings, whilst ‘Always’ is pure Pink Floyd, right down to the phased guitar solo. And the highest compliment you could pay the brilliantly overwrought ballad ‘Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away’ is that it wouldn’t sound out of place on Suede’s opus magnum, 1994’s ‘Dog Man Star’.
Suede deserve some credit for being one of the few reunited bands to actually risk their reputation by recording a new album and whilst there is nothing on ‘Bloodsports’ as gloriously epic as ‘Stay Together’ or as bat-shit crazy as ‘Introducing The Band’, it should be viewed as a partial success. Although given their luck so far, we expect nothing less than the announcement of a full blown Smiths reunion on its release date.
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