By Sophie Mirzaian
Imagine yourself at a concert in England. The lights, dim a second ago, are now nearly blinding you as you stare at Brett Anderson, as thin, androgynous, and glamorous as ever. And Bernard Butler, one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, is a few feet away from you. The first few notes of “We Are the Pigs” start playing, and you feel like if you were to collapse and die in the crowd, you would be okay with that because you’re listening to Suede.
But that was in 1994. The year 1999, however, nearly destroyed Suede. Lead singer and lyricist Brett Anderson was able to overcome his cocaine addiction, and although he recovered, his band wasn’t so fortunate.
Now, the Britpop legends of Suede are back with “Bloodsports” and closer than ever to returning to their former glory.
The first track, “Barriers,” makes the album’s theme clear: youth, love, and the chase. With its opening lyrics (“anise seed kisses and lipstick traces / lemonade sipped in Belgian rooms”), we already feel classic Suede. Anderson’s songs have always been riddled with over-dramatic similes and metaphors, and to rob new songs of those would be criminal.
The fact that Anderson actually refers to “glue” in “Barriers” as a sticky substance rather than as an inhalant (“Beautiful Ones” from “Coming Up”) is a sign of the at least slightly more innocent lyrical themes throughout the album.
“Snowblind” opens with a guitar riff that sets it apart within the album, creating a unique melody that channels Bernard Butler-era Suede. Butler left the band in 1994, and although Anderson and Butler reunited in 2004 for their project The Tears, they disbanded again in 2006.
Still, listeners can feel Butler’s creative influence anchoring Anderson in this album, perhaps because of their earlier collaboration. The guitar riffs are just as strong as they were pre-“Head Music,” despite the fact that Butler himself did not rejoin the group for the new album.
By the third track, “It Starts and Ends With You,” the listener already feels monotony in terms of overall song structure, which disrupts the momentum as the songs flow from one to the next. The problem carries throughout nearly every single song and becomes the album’s single but monstrous flaw.
The closing track, “Faultlines,” asserts itself in its more muted sound and instrumentation—especially juxtaposed with the grandness of the preceding track “Always.”
It isn’t so much that this album makes you want to listen to it on a loop for months, but it does make you crave Suede’s early albums, the lyrical and melodic richness, the glamour, the rawness. Judging on a Suede-sized scale is slightly unfair, considering it’s been nearly twenty years since the last album of theirs that lived up to the standards the world has set for them. Even then, “Bloodsports” reminds listeners of old Suede and echoes it beautifully.
“Bloodsports” stands extremely tall both within Suede’s discography and outside of it. Long-time fans will be very easily pleased by the ease with which it emulates material Suede could have released in 1995. In remembering the failure that was “Head Music” (1999), which then also ruined commercial sales of “A New Morning” (2002) and the album itself for, well, everybody, fans would be crazy not to feel like “Bloodsports” gives Suede the finale it should have had a decade ago.