When you’re into your 25th year as a band, it’s quite an achievement to produce something fresh and inspiring as Suede have done with this album. It’s set in the countryside, but not the idyllic countryside that has fluffy bunnies hopping about as butterflies flutter past their twitchy noses. It’s set in the sort of unkempt countryside that exists near railway lines, along the edge of a motorway or near building sites – the overgrown junk laden mess where kids on bikes get up to no good, stumble across things they shouldn’t and might even lose track of time and go missing…
Album opener, As One, sets a dramatic tone which places the emotional dial at “tense”. It’s wonderfully orchestrated and unashamedly gothic with Brett Anderson vocally at his imperious best. And there are some massive tracks on this album – amongst the gloom, Life Is Golden is Suede’s equivalent of Elbow’s One Day Like This – gloriously heartwarming and uplifting. Tides is utterly brilliant as well – Brett puts in another huge vocal performance to compete with the waves of sheer noise that engulf him.
But there are also some very inventive tracks in the mix. Chalk Circles summons images of Druid chants and leads straight into Cold Hands – another banger. One thing the band wanted to introduce into this album was the spoken word, and Roadkill is a thoroughly creepy, violin laden poem about the sort of carcass found lying in the landscape they paint. “Today I found a dead bird, Crushed into the realbland clay, Brittle bones like snapped twigs, Velvet for the scurrying things.”
Then the track Dead Bird has the sounds of digging and burying as Brett is questioned by his son about what he’s doing. “You know,” came the stern reply. It conjures up all sorts of imagery, as nothing is really explained fully. For a start, who is Ronnie, the boy the search team are looking for? And what about the Mistress? As a basis for some sort of thriller writing, it works very well.
I always liked a bit of Suede, but this album has really made me admire them a lot. I almost wonder if The Blue Hour could be made into a stage show, such are the possibilities in its plot.