(Planet Me)
Thursday, November 19, 2015
SUEDE "Night Thoughts" : Camden Roundhouse 13/14 November 2015

For a band twenty five years in, you might expect Suede to rest on their laurels slightly. They could, so very easily, do a Pixies, and spend ten years touring off four albums, keeping it fresh by playing latter period b-sides from the dead end days of 2CD's+a DVD+a cassette single, as the memory of new music becomes a faded hope and the band become a rock museum.

Premiering their next record, live and in full, with a accompanying narrative film projected the height of the venue, is a gutsy move. But with it, Suede reinvent the album. The album is a dead concept to some, a archaic assortment of songs bundled together to be shattered into a dozen Spotify playlists. Not Suede. Presented as a whole, “Night Thoughts” isn't so much a selection of songs as a musical drama. Opening with “When You Were Young”, the seventh Suede album is a dense, and intelligent record. The type of thing bands don't tend to do anymore. Songs bleed into each other ; guitar lines and themes appear throughout multiple songs, much like a film soundtrack has it's key motifs, whilst the lyrics reach into the song around them, sharing imagery and cues. It may sound pretentious, but it's more constructed as a set of songs that work well together. Let's not use the word “concept album” because thats the kind of bullshit you get for narrative albums about oppressed workers overthrowing robot corporations made by meathead guys who have never known the touch of a human female. But the record is a interlinking, and interconnected set of songs all around the same themes, of communication, love, relationship, loss, life. Taken as a whole, it's a lot of digest, and the songs are individually rich in the way that only can reward repeated listening. I can't wait to listen to these at home, endlessly, as a unified body of work. Together, these songs sound like they could be the best singular Suede album since 1994's epic “Dog Man Star” in scope and construction, in flow, and in a cohesion where the songs stand together individually and as a narrative whole telling the story of a movement of life.

Oh, and then there's Richard on guitar, who suffers because he isn't called Bernard – otherwise he'd be lauded as the genius musician that i) he is and ii) might embarrass him to be told so. The new songs are drenched in beautiful textures and sounds that show he always played to the song and not the instrument. He's never sounded so damn good. And yes, I know how high that particular bar has been set.

Whilst there may be no single breathtaking 'pop hits' in the new stuff, this isn't the Suede that need to headline the Reading Festival of yore, but a new, relevant version of the band that seem driven by remaining relevant and having a point, a purpose, an artistic identity and here they reimagine the album ; no longer a bunch of songs piled together, but a interconnecting set of scenes designed to create a wider, larger experience : and this, coupled with a narrative film detailing a mid-life crisis and the beginning, middle, and end of a a relationship (it starts, and ends, with you, after all), create a powerful but not exactly pleasant whole.

Though, as one of my friends texted me afterwards “it's a laugh a minute.” Perhaps, more sincerely, I'm also told “That's a lot of vomiting.”

The second half of the night was a practical second Suede show in its own right – a 90 minute, 18 song precis of past glories that in itself, is longer than Suede's summer festival sets. There's a core of hits, which are, in themselves, superior to their once-peers, the disintegrated Oasis and sadly defunct Pulp, the artistically redundant Blur ; but equal to their heroes. Across the two nights, there are 25 songs, 7 each reserved for each night : night 1 opens with the rarely played stomper “Moving” that roars like a lion in ambition and hunger, alongside the gorgeous “The Living Dead” and the live premiere of recent non-album track “Darkest Days”. Night #1 closes with the debut EP in full, of “The Drowners”, “My Insatiable One” and “To The Birds”.

Second night isn't quite so fun, as dunderhead meatsacks get tanked up and drunk, then storm into the area in front of the stage, demanding we all part to please them, like some fat, drunk, sportsuited drunken Moses and we were the Red Sea whilst they wait for “Live Forever”...Red Mist, I think.

After Captain Drunk And The Thundercunt Army get bored and settle down or get ejected, there's a stormer of a show ; even better than the night before, with “Heroin” getting only it's second live performance in history, and “Breakdown” its fourth (baffingly, because its the kind of song that some bands would make whole careers out of). “Animal Lover” is next, and getting it's fifth live performance since 1993 ; given that no one in the band seems to like it, it's quite intruiging they are playing it. It's OK, but insubstantial, like musical Haribo. Night #2 ends with a “Dog Man Star” miniset, which, every time I see it, is still one of the greatest experiences there is, a 25 minute suite of dark, powerful drama that ends on one of the greatest funeral songs of all time, “Still Life.

Suede have one of the best bodies of work of any band. They play with their hearts, as if it matters – this thing as stupid as making a racket with planks of wood and steel boxes. And the new songs are now, of here, of what it is to be in this planet, on this world, sucked to this ball of rock drifting through space, in this space and time. The future is promising, and only repeated exposure to the dense and challenging “Night Thoughts” will tell you if it is the future that you connect with.

Night Thoughts -
when you are young ;
outsiders ;
no tomorrow ;
pale snow ;
I don't know how to reach you ;
tightrope ;
what i'm trying to tell you ;
tightrope ;
learning to be ;
like kids ;
I can't give her what she wants ;
when you were young ;
the fur and the feathers

Night #1 -
moving ;
killing of a flashboy ;
trash ;
animal nitrate ;
we are the pigs ;
heroine ;
pantomime horse ;
the living dead ;
darkest days ;
new generation ;
so young ;
metal mickey ;
beautiful ones ;
the drowners ;
my insatiable one ;
to the birds

Night #2 -
this hollywood life ;
killing of a flashboy ;
trash ;
animal nitrate ;
we are the pigs ;
heroine ;
heroin ;
for the strangers ;
filmstar ;
new generation ;
breakdown ;
animal lover ;
so young ;
metal mickey ;
beautiful ones ;
2 of us ;
asphalt world ;
still life

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