Saturday, June 29, 2013

Album Review: Suede – Bloodsports (2013)

I remember when I first became aware of Suede because it coincided with a particularly exciting time in my life. It was early 1993, and I’d just travelled from New Zealand to Scotland, via London, for what turned out to be an extended stay in my father’s homeland.

I recall sitting in a pub in Glasgow’s east end one afternoon lamenting the fact that I didn’t really know anyone (beyond my Dad’s family) but for whatever reason (being unemployed?) I seemed to have way too much time on my hands and nobody to share this great adventure with. Truth be told, I was a bit lost. Prior to going to the pub I’d picked up a copy of one of the music papers – probably the NME – and I spent much of that afternoon reading it from cover to cover. Even back then I was a pop culture obsessive, and at the time I was quite convinced that the UK was the epicentre of the pop culture universe, so I was determined to bring myself right up to date. Plus it was a good excuse to sit there and drink.
Suede was everywhere. How come I’d never heard of these guys, let alone heard them? There was a big write up in that paper and when I perused the charts I noted a track called ‘Animal Nitrate’ by Suede sat high in the singles chart, within the Top 10. If I recall correctly, I went out and bought it immediately (on something called a Cassingle, which was perfect for my Sony Walkman of the era) – either that afternoon or the very next day. I’m pretty sure I still have it. It was every bit as impressive as the NME had told me it was. I was an instant convert. A Suede fan. In for the long haul.

The band’s self-titled debut album was also riding high in the album charts at the time and it would eventually win 1993’s Mercury Prize – the second ever recipient after Primal Scream’s epic Screamadelica had won the inaugural award. I pinned a small poster sized replica of the album cover on the wall of my bedsit flat. I stared at it for hours trying to work out if it was two guys kissing or whether it was in fact two girls, or even – shock, horror – a heterosexual couple. Whatever, that image sealed Suede’s fate as the most androgynous outfit in all of pop (at that time), and it wasn’t just singer Brett Anderson’s vocal that prompted immediate recall of David Bowie in his glam-rock pomp.

The Face of November 1994

Suede continued to feature heavily in the various music paper hype machines across the next couple of years; the bust-up between Anderson and (then) guitarist Bernard Butler, in particular, providing plenty of melodramatic copy fodder.
I collected everything Suede released between 1993 and 2002 – five studio albums and a remarkable B-sides collection called Sci-Fi Lullabies. As I saw it, each release became less essential than the one that preceded it, but all of the band’s albums contain something worth listening to. I even quite enjoyed Anderson’s solo work of a few years back.
Fast forward to 2013 (thank you, patient reader), and Suede’s sixth studio album, Bloodsports, released a full 11 years after the previous full-length outing. It was with some trepidation, admittedly, that I listened to it for the first time recently.

I needn’t have worried. It sounds exactly like the Suede I recall. The Suede of old. And I do mean exactly like. Okay, it probably doesn’t quite live up to the high standards of the first three albums, but it is unmistakably Suede; the same formula, the same lyrical themes, the same signature guitar, and of course, the same old Brett Anderson calling the shots from the frontline. Naturally enough, I quite like it.

But I like it because I’m a Suede fan. It isn’t the most ambitious piece of work ever released. It doesn’t exactly break any new ground. It won’t be an album that has today’s indie kids or hipsters ranting and raving endlessly about its charms. It is simply Suede (or Anderson, take your pick) doing what Suede does best. Just quietly, some of it is probably a bit dated, lost somewhere in the no-man’s land between glam, emo, and the Britpop style the band initially hovered around the periphery of.

Bloodsports is an album to sate the appetite of fans, or an album for lapsed fans curious to see what the state of the Suede nation looks like in 2013. While I absolutely still count myself as one of those fans, I truly doubt the release of this all-new work will result in any great number of new converts.

Highlights: ‘Barriers’, ‘It Starts And Ends With You’, and ‘Sabotage’ (clip below). But it’s all pretty good and there are no real duds.

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear of your adventures in Scotland,Mick, and of your appreciation of Glasgow's (many) boozers. Other than an early single, I never got into Suede - there was plenty of competition at the time - but I bought the debut for a dollar and am surprised by how much I like it. I also recommend Electricity from 1999 I think, or much of it anyway.