Brett Anderson - Slow Attack

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2009-11-02

It begins with an eerie, discordant swell of woodwind instruments before building to a dramatic fanfare and then subsiding. It's an attention-grabbing, slightly unnerving opening, but from the second Anderson launches that soprano whine of his, you know exactly where you are and in whose company you find yourself. It's a problem of which Anderson must be ruefully aware: no matter how much he changes both his music and his lifestyle (he's been drug-free for several years now), he will always be Brett, the skinny man from Suede, who once entranced the music press with a waggle of his barely-existent bum and a flick of his perfectly 90s fringe. Anderson had immortality within his grasp before it all crumbled away thanks to epic debauchery and band fallouts.

To be fair to Anderson, he doesn't appear to feel the slightest impulse to chase past glories. Like his previous solo works, 2007's self-titled album and 2008's Wilderness, Slow Attack is pastoral and folksy. 'Wheatfields' lilting woodwind and acoustic finger picking seems indebted to Fairport Convention, and while 'The Hunted' could easily have been a Suede glitterbeat romp in a pervious life, here it keeps itself sombrely understated. In common with Anderson's previous albums, Slow Attack is also a determinedly wintery, mournful record. 'Frozen Road', as one might expect, is glacial and chilly. Even a track called 'Summer' retains its stately froideur. All of this suggests Anderson has found a new muse to occupy his creative spirit since he moved on from the city where elegant swine high on gasoline ran with the dogs all night.

And yet, it's hard to shake the feeling that this countryside poet reinvention is just another pose Anderson is striking. Underneath the jangling arrangements, most of the songs tread familiar lyrical paths. 'The Hunted' and 'Pretty Windows' both return to the familiar Anderson trope of the captivating, physically ravishing woman. Both feature repeated, strained use of the word 'she'. In Suede he made no secret of his influences - Bowie, Bolan, Morrissey - and of his naked ambition to emulate them by becoming a proper, larger-than-life pop star. Here he's just traded one set of clichés for another - Anderson's lyrical palette now consists of scarecrows, lilacs and fields of wheat. It's a picture postcard or a holiday read chick lit version of the countryside.

What niggled at Suede's detractors during their heyday was the impression that Anderson was nothing more than an artful construct, an extremely well-realised piece of wish fulfillment. His pretence of bisexuality springs to mind as a prime example of a man who seemed to believe that just saying something would make it so. Unfortunately, given his entirely laudable efforts to move on from the demise of his former band, Anderson still comes across as a bit fake. The only difference is, now he's a fake folkie.

Richard Morris

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