SUEDE – Bloodsports

bloodsports600Launching a first new release for ten years with the uplifting BARRIERS – which manages to filter the band’s post-DOG MAN STAR era glam-pop through the best moments of both U2’s WAR and Big Country’s THE CROSSING – Suede’s BLOODSPORTS is kick in the HEAD MUSIC, and finally drowns out the crash-wreck hangover alarm bells of A NEW MORNING.
Pounding circular toms, pulsing bass and sustained soaring guitar motifs surround a heart-quickening chorus and, as BARRIERS plays out with its simple Simple Minds chant, evening sunshine audiences are likely to be cider-punching the air, front-to-back, in communal reverie.
Curious, really… Though they once or twice flirted with it during their second wind, Suede never really got into bed with the lad/beer crowd-pleasing crowd of the mid-1990s, operating somewhere out at the edges of the Britpop punch-up they’d begun a couple of years before (Anderson dismissing Grunge when pictured on the cover of Select in front of the Union Jack). While Blur came off as artful and cheeky Harrington loons and primary colours Oasis slugged it out amongst their tracksuit-topped selves, Suede were the slightly detached “HEROES” leather jacket kid getting off with an interesting lipstick and fringe ingenue, necking pills, their view of the horizon blocked by some awful grey mid-1960s tower block. Anderson’s skewed and nuanced obsessions with the squalor of sex, death and the something else of existence singled them out as something else – the crack in that Union Jack.
Following the immersive mind-stew of DOG MAN STAR (1994), 1996’s COMING UP trimmed out the more esoteric ingredients and plated up something lighter – if not sonically, then spiritually leaping straight from LOW to LET’S DANCE. Even in its day it felt relentlessly confident, like a Greatest Hits record, and it completely reinvigorated Suede following the demoralising difficulties surrounding guitarist Bernard Butler’s departure (for his take on his time in the band, listen to this edition of The Mouthcast). This despite it being, to some, a syrupy dilution of the band’s bleak, beautiful and hard-to-swallow dystopian sci-fi lullabies.
The band were, though, caught out by morning after comedown. In retrospect 1999’s HEAD MUSIC seems (bad) druggy, shallow and too glossy despite a commendable – if not always successful – general pushing on of ideas and a couple of killer tracks. By 2002’s enervating A NEW MORNING, it dawned on angular helm Brett Anderson that Suede’s time in the sun had probably been and gone. The band whimpered to a tired split entirely unbecoming, seemingly unsure of what it took to be  Suede, or even what being Suede actually meant, anymore.
In March 2010 the second model was invited to reconvene, in theory for a single reunion show in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. It was an absolute triumph. Three years on, BLOODSPORTS reveals not only that the something going on so vibrant in London’s Albert Hall that night was no one-off nostalgia-fuelled roar, but also that the band have rediscovered whatever essence it was that they thought lost, creatively.
Single IT STARTS AND ENDS WITH YOU is a tidied up TRASH, hair combed and suit pressed ready for something big, while Richard Oakes’ U2-ish chiming guitar rings floating bells over The Edge of outsider anthem FOR THE STRANGERS. Heavily reverbed vocals on the sparse WHAT ARE YOU NOT TELLING ME? recall
 the intense loneliness in the debut album’s THE NEXT LIFE, while the consuming velvet psychedelia of SOMETIMES I FEEL I’LL FLOAT AWAY could be an outtake from it. ALWAYS, with Oriental edges and upwards keyboard, and the icily desolate FAULTLINES close out the album with befitting grandeur: “There is no fear left for us to fear,” sings Anderson and, not for the first time on BLOODSPORTS, the band seems to issue the big league with a “we’re coming to get you” warning…