Suede - Night Thoughts

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-01-22
Suede's seventh album, Night Thoughts, is their second album since their comeback and also the second in a row to be totally over-shadowed by David Bowie. Much has been made of it being a return to the dark grandeur of Dog Man Star (or Dog Man Arse as it came to be known due to the album cover), but there is also something of Coming Up about it.
Suede are a band that have earned the right to have their name used as an adjective and Night Thoughts, in both its successes and failures, is a very Suede album. What's immediately noticeable is that some of the titles -When You Are Young, Outsiders, Tightrope and The Fur And The Feathers - are so Suede it's amazing that they haven't been used already. The reason that I can describe their song-titles as 'so Suede' is that Brett Anderson has, right from the start, had a very particular lyrical voice. Occasionally this has caused him to stray into self-parody but he is on top form on Night Thoughts combining the weighty central theme (the feeling of helplessness that is left once the brashness of youth has gone and your mortality and that of your loved ones becomes apparent) with such existing lyrical traits as an obsession with detail and a love of the unexpected word and phrase (Sandwiches, denim shirts, track suits and the name Persephone all make an appearance). It's quite a balancing act but he manages it. 
Another balancing act on this album is the balancing act between Dog Man Star-era Suede (expansive, dramatic) and Coming Up-era Suede (pop thrills). On the Dog Man Star side there are several wonderful long songs and big ballads, some shorter mood pieces and the feeling of it being a concept album with the Neil Young-like (almost) bookending of the album by When You Are Young and When You Were Young and the way the tracks flow into each other. Suede as a band respond well to the challenge of this material and there are many high points in the performances (Anderson's full throttle vocals on the ballads, Richard Oakes' Sisters Of Mercy-like guitar on Outsiders, Matt Osman's bass on Pale Snow) and the arrangements (the way the intro to Learning To Be hints at Scott Walker's Boy Child). Sitting amongst these songs are a couple of unashamedly Coming Up moments - What I'm Trying To Tell You and, particularly, Like Kids which starts out like Trash and then Anderson hits two Suede clichés in the chorus by starting it with 'Oh' and finishing it in falsetto. 
In the end I feel that I can do without these Coming Up moments as they break the mood that Suede have created. This aside the album is a success, excelling in that very Suede trait of balancing the poignant and the ridiculous, often in one verse or musical section. 

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