“Today I found a dead bird,” sings Brett Anderson on this album’s Scott Walker-esque centre-piece, ‘Roadkill’. Poor bloody bird, with its “brittle bones like snapped twigs / Savaged by the tyres and tossed in the tar / Broken in the English dirt / A carcass for the carrying crow”. Set atop a haze of strings and drones, Anderson’s spoken-word lament and the surrounding atmosphere of fog, doom and death capture the essence of ‘The Blue Hour’.
The unwitting but revolutionary forefathers of Britpop are now well away from the hedonism, decadence and urban decay that once inspired them. Instead, on their eighth album, they wander down the B-roads, among – well – the fly-tippings, the chain-link fences and the badger corpses. They’ve hit the countryside, but this is not a pastoral. Suede’s latest evolution sees them boldly flexing their imaginations to the terror and vulnerability that lays “just beyond the hard shoulder”.
As Gregorian chants blend with trademark piercing riffs, the cinematic lushness of opener ‘As One’ could sit just as easily on a West End musical score. You can imagine Anderson beating his chest and treading the boards as he howls, “Here I am / Talking to my shadow / Head in my hands”. The orchestral flutterings of ‘All The Wild Places’ also lend themselves well to the drama of a soundtrack, while the heavenly ‘The Invisibles’ could have passed a Bond song.
Anderson has described this as the final part in their trio of comeback records, which began with the 2013’s ‘Bloodsports’ and continued with 2016’s resplendent ‘Night Thoughts’. You sense that ‘The Blue Hour’ is Suede giving themselves the grandest of curtain calls on their current era.
At a sprawling 14 tracks, it may contain a few flourishes too many – and many may find themselves weighed down by the opulence. However, it’s still littered with the usual calling cards to fall in love with. The aching ‘Life Is Golden’ and almighty ‘Flytipping’ shimmer among their finest and more bittersweet ballads, while ‘Wastelands’ and ‘Cold Hands’ both swagger with Suede’s usual elegiac arena pop prowess.
While there’s a comforting familiarity that comes with all things Suede, it’s wonderfully shrouded on ‘The Blue Hour’ by a very new, romantic and alluring strangeness. These are not hits to shake your bits to. Nor will these beats shake your meat. Rest assured, Suede remain the beautiful ones, but are just looking for beauty in ever more curious places.