Suede – ‘Bloodsports’

Brett Anderson and co revisit past glories for a sixth album full of trademark trashy glamour and daft pop

Picture Brett Anderson. Now picture Brett Anderson a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (2002, to be precise). Picture a Brett Anderson who, just like fellow loveable but flawed ne’er-do-well Han Solo, has been frozen in carbonite – both as a punishment for wrongdoing (that year’s album ‘A New Morning’), and to stop him unleashing any more evil unto the world (a follow-up to ‘A New Morning’). Suspended in time for eternity, his hand placed tantalisingly near his rump but cruelly thwarted from giving his arse a thwack.

Snooty so-and-sos would have you believe this is the kindest fate for Suede, even after the spate of reunion shows that kicked off in 2010. Thankfully they can be ignored, for they are largely talking bollocks. Instead, ‘Bloodsports’ finally provides the send-off Suede’s legacy deserved 10 years ago. And, fittingly, it’s due to them thumbing their noses at the notion of growing old gracefully, and making brilliantly daft pop music instead. Take opening track ‘Barriers’: its overblown intro, its huge, womping chorus, Brett’s so-gaudy-they’re-great lyrics about “Aniseed kisses and lipstick traces/Lemonade sipped in Belgian rooms”. From a man who, legend has it, once stuck his head out of his window and yelled to all and sundry that he had the best drugs in London, anything less ridiculous would have been fucking heartbreaking.

‘Snowblind’ comes on like a filthy elder relative of 1994 single ‘We Are The Pigs’, with bitingly scuzzy guitar courtesy of Richard Oakes and Brett’s high-camp, dripping-poison yelping (“The rumours burn like Roman candles”), while ‘For The Strangers’ is another romanticised paean to the outsider à la 1996’s ‘Trash’ in which being besotted “stings like aerosol in my eyes”. Both sound like they could have been churned out of the same Bangers Factory that spawned the pop goodness of the band’s third album, 1996’s ‘Coming Up’ – huge choruses, glistening top-end melodies, riffs so shiny they’d make a magpie envious – but elsewhere there’s ‘Dog Man Star’-era moodiness, too. ‘Sabotage’ is built on eerie, jilted foundations and dark glimpses of sordid relationships (“She knows there are places I can’t go/But if I did, I’d make her follow”) and, even if closer ‘Faultlines’ falls short of early comparisons to ‘The Asphalt World’, its stunted, scraping strings and gloaming orchestral clangs create a fine glam’n’gloomy climax.

As ever, the road to redemption is littered with the odd pothole: ‘Hit Me’ has all the ingredients of classic Suede but comes out decidedly stodgy. And while there’s a fine line between silliness and genius, it’s not hard to work out which side of the divide ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ errs on with the lyrical clanger “Like a hairline crack in a radiator, leaking life”. But that doesn’t stop ‘Bloodsports’ from righting previous wrongs and proving the naysayers to be fools: staying frozen in the past isn’t the only way of becoming a stonking bunch of flashboys all over again, forever more.

Ben Hewitt

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