Album Review: Suede – ‘Bloodsports’

I’m sitting here listening to the new Suede LP (yes, LP – I’m listening to it on vinyl).  Feels like cracking open an atmosphere of yesterday.  For all the want of ‘new’ – it’s oh so refreshing to hear ‘old’.  One man’s past is another man’s future.  I like the title, Bloodsports.  I like the artwork.  It’s one of those albums where you open the gatefold sleeve… and what have Suede chosen to fill that 12″x24″ with?  Nothing.  Just a mainly black photograph.  How much more black could it be?  The answer is none.  None more black.

Side one has a couple of immediately killer tracks.  I got into Suede relatively early on.  One of my mates lent me their debut album.  It was all a bit fey for me at the time – I was a rocker.  But there was something about that voice, and the melodies.  It just sounded new.  Suede were accused at the time of ripping off David Bowie.  Here we are in 2013 and Suede released the first single from this album on almost the same day as Bowie‘s comeback single.  Bowie‘s comeback single which I thought was great, contrary to everyone else I know.  But then their opinions generally count for nothing.  My opinion is the only one that matters! /because I’m always right.

So I listened to Suede when I was young and it sounded intricate and wobbly.  Brett Anderson always seemed to make too much effort to be ‘different’.  Perhaps it was necessary.  You can’t re-evaluate time, you can only live it.  Suede opened the doors to what eventually became Britpop.  But for a while there was no genre, just moments of excitement bobbing in a zesty sea.  These were times when even the music I rebelled against was actually pretty creative.  I can be as revisionist as the next person, but with the advent of sampling and the over-spill of acid house those really were exciting times for everyone.  I was caught up in the Seattle ‘grunge’ thing, but the likes of Suede helped to reel me back into British music.  Suede should have had a monument built in their honour.  Their second album Dog Man Star distilled everything they were good at. Suede ran, ran with that album clutched to their bosom, ran like the wind into the sun, all but melting.  Too grandiose?  Perhaps.  But these bands, these albums – were/are necessary.

In the end Suede were buried by the next wave of bands.  Unfairly.  But well and truly buried.

So I sit here and listen to their first album in ten years.  No Bernard Butler.  But then that was always a fractious, precarious relationship – Anderson & Butler.  Still, even without him I’m hearing moments here that almost reach those young, heady days.  I sit here and I am in the nineties.  I was a Suede fan.  But they were first and foremost a girl’s band.  Girlfriend’s always adored Suede.  They would borrow (and never return) albums.  Something about Brett appealed to them.  Or was it their keyboard player (who lived for months at a time on brown rice)?  There was just something about the band that pricked a girl’s ears (so to speak).  Suede couldn’t get on-board with the Britpop scene that followed.  Yes, they were part of it – but they seemed aloof.  In fact, as far as I remember they just dissolved away.  Pulp, Oasis, Blur and Radiohead ascended.  Yet perhaps if a history was written, Suede‘s part in it should be bulked out.  Even if only with dried flower petals.

The penultimate track is playing – very Pink Floyd-esque.  This album demands glitter balls, pomp and circumstance.  If I can hear Bowie then I can hear Suede.  This is an album for people who lived through times when people bought albums.  Bombastic drums.  Guitars.  High pitched strings.  I sit here and drink my coffee.  In the dark.  Listening to Bloodsports.  It almost brings a tear to the eye.  The only thing that halts the salty droplet from running down my cheek is the happiness that Suede are still out there making music like this.  And all the other bands.  Old and new.  It only takes a moment of listening to BBC 6 Music for the realisation that there are many others out there doing the same thing to dawn on you.  Music will always live on.  There will always be artists.  There will always be new artists.  Not everyone is in it for the money.  Perhaps no-one can be in it for the money anymore?

I am currently writing and recording the second TEHI album with Bill Ryan.  Anyone who’s listened to our debut, Escapism, will attest to the fact that we hold aloft the ‘idea’ of ‘the album’ as an important concept.  We are taking this ideal to the extreme.  Our next album will be a magnificent, twisted, tortuous affair.  I just hope people like me who have their lives affirmed by great musicians will join our gang.

And so I turn the record over again.  I really like this album.  It could probably fit in the timeline somewhere just after Dog Man Star.  These tracks could have played in a club after I danced to ‘Babies‘ or ‘Do You Remember the First Time?‘.  But this is not nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake.  I loved those days.  Skinny fit shirts and sweat dripping from dingy nightclub ceilings.  When I was recording music back then it was too easy for everyone to jump on the bandwagon.  That’s what Britpop became in the end.  That’s the reason it fell apart.  For every Oasis there was a Northern Uproar, for every Blur a Nilon Bombers and for every Pulp a Menswear.  Suede may have stood aloof, but they were dragged into the party.  It didn’t really suit them.  I like this album.  It starts and ends with you Suede.  It starts and ends with you.

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