Suede ‘Night Thoughts’ Review: Britpop pioneers craft their most ambitious album since Dog Man Star.
The last time Suede made a lofty concept album with a full-blown orchestra was 1994’s Dog Man Star. An ambitious fever dream that retrofitted glam, prog and psychedelia with a Britpop sheen, it was a deliciously overwrought affair that went somewhat unappreciated at its time.
One might assume their latest album Night Thoughts–using a full string section and accompanied by a moody short film–might be similarly grandiose in melodrama. But upon closer inspection, it’s actually their most understated work, replacing youthful hedonism with middle-age reflection.
Frontman Brett Anderson’s lyrics are now focused on being a devoted husband and dad, and the emotional minefield such duties entails, as heard on tracks like What I’m Trying To Tell You (All I’m trying to tell you is this is enough/But you’re walking away) and the moving mediation of Tightrope (We know more than we used to).
Elsewhere on the Goth-tinged Outsiders and the Trash-esque Like Kids, he turns a wistful eye to the days of his youth, with the sting that one can’t ever go back.
All the aforementioned tracks have that special formula that only Suede can pull off: Anderson’s unique soaring vocals and guitarist Richard Oakes evocative riffs that splits the difference between manic hubris and somber introspection.
That being said, Night Thoughts isn’t as immediately gratifying with ear-worms as 2013’s magnificent comeback Bloodsports, which focused more on tight anthems vs. sprawling epics. The hooks aren’t as deep at times (although the dysfunctional anthem I Can’t Give Her What She Wants is an instant classic).
But for its unique lyrical approach about anxieties that plague Generation-Xers, contemplating middle age while trying to make sense of an ever frightening world, it’s a moving piece of work (it certainly resonated with this writer who just became a father this year).
Several other Night Thoughts reviews have noted that Suede have competed with David Bowie twice in a row with albums sharing release dates in both 2013 and 2016: Bloodsports vs.his out-of-exile smash The Next Day, and Night Thoughts pitted against his final masterpiece Blackstar. There is an interesting synergy there: Bloodsports and Next Day both showed a vim and vigor undimmed despite the passage of time, while Night Thoughts and Blackstar are more emotional harrowing affairs reflecting on age and mortality.
This is perfectly fitting: Suede wouldn’t exist without Bowie’s influence, and it shows they– like the late rock titan, are able of aging gracefully without losing creative potency. This makes Night Thoughts a wonderful companion piece with Blackstar, and the band keepers of the flame that their hero lit long ago.
You can own Suede’s ‘Night Thoughts’ on Amazon or iTunes below: