The decade since Suede last released an album have been cruel to many of us. The world Suede existed in then has fallen to pieces, with the death of HMV, Woolworths, the rise of the iEverything, and a society where there is no such thing as the underground, just another option. But as ever, Suede do their best work under the Conservative jackhammer. Where did it all go wrong? In retrospect, its easy to see where Suede fell off the path : following 1999's underwhelming “Head Music” with a three year sabbatical from touring and a woefully-out-of-time-and-place final album “A New Morning”, the band limped to an end in late 2003 with some defiantly final shows. Few bands have been deservedly seen as having lost their way so spectacularly.
The risk of “Pixies Syndrome” looms. The band could have become a rolling Nostalgia Machine, endlessly touring the same five records around the world to ever-diminishing returns as they become an irrelevancy. They – and we – deserve better. Here it is. Within seconds, the memory of disappointment that accompanied repeated listens to “A New Morning” are banished.
“Bloodsports” is the first classic Suede album in 17 years. Whilst it lacks a true, eyes-wet-weeping bedsit piano ballad, it has everything else. Including the kitchen sink. Songs are rising and falling mini-dramas that have all the things that made Suede songs so damn glorious : understated but perfect guitar lines, harmonies to sink battleships, and a sense of wide-eyed romanticism and hunger. This is Suede's second chance, and one that they will not fuck up. As ever, Richard Oakes, Suede's unsung saviour lashes the record in swathes of sound and melody that is both hopeful and hopeless. Would you know, to be blunt that he wasn't always in the band from listening to this? No, of course not.
I could list individual song titles, but would they mean anything? Probably not. But suffice to say that, my fears were that Suede would ruin the memory. My fears were unfounded. Every song is confident, and crafted ; as if they had been waiting a decade to emerge. No longer is Brett Anderson the hungry and naïve visionary he once was, but now – and as evidenced by the records he made since in the past decade – no longer concerned with smaller things such as pigs and nuclear skies, but has grown to a much bigger vision. There's a whole world out there, and Suede are in it up to the neck. The opening three punch of “Barriers”, “Snowblind”, “It Starts And Ends With You” is the strongest opening set of songs in the Suede canon since the debut.
Everything about this record screams classic Suede : at 39 minutes its short, but thankfully, shorn of the lesser stuff that should have been b-sides that dogged the later albums. In terms of look, feel, sound, content, this is the best comeback record in a very long time – and, apart from Bowie's “The Next Day” the best in my memory. And it is ideally presented : the Bloodsports are the battle, unspoken, and obvious, between the two warring factions in any relationship as they vie for position and prestige. Between the lure of the past and the hope of the future, between then and now, between me and you.
Back with a vengance.