Comebacks are tricky things. Lots of bands have tried it and attempted to recreate their former magic, but few have mastered it. Suede, however, have not only recaptured the fire of their golden years but gone on to create an equally special body of work.
Their eighth album ‘The Blue Hour’ is the final part of a trilogy that began when they reformed back in 2010 and has seen the band reach new levels of creativity, culminating in a strange, dark and alluring triumph.
As singer Brett Anderson explains, this is a different Suede experience.
“We’re very proud of it,” he begins. “This whole period of our career is really exciting and quite unexpected in lots of ways. Most people assume that as bands get older, they become safer and churn out the same sorts of records over and over again, but I feel we’ve pushed what we do to somewhere else. We’re finding new ways to be Suede.”
Brett freely admits it’s a challenging listen, but he feels the band have earned the freedom to push their audience and they do that on an album full of mystery and treasure.
“'The Blue Hour' comes from the twilight between daytime and nighttime. When the night is closing in, and there’s a sense of impending dread. It says something about the tone of the record for me.”
That bleak tone comes from the band's desire to channel their inner darkness and enter the mind space Brett describes as “Suedeworld”.
“It’s a place, but it’s an attitude as well,” he explains. “The records have to fit within Suedeworld somehow. When we’ve got it wrong in the past, the records haven’t fitted within Suedeworld. We’re trying to push the boundaries of Suedeworld a bit further out. It’s the duty of a band at this stage, 25 years down the line, to try and challenge their audience.”
The album finds the band realising their experimental desires by including orchestra’s, operatic choirs, spoken word samples and field recordings to create a sense of uneasiness and dark grandeur that permeates the album. At its heart though remains the songwriting that has been Suede’s calling card.
“Some of my favourite songs that we’ve written for many years are on here,” exclaims Brett. “Something like ‘Life is Golden’ is a classic Suede song.”
Perhaps the most fulfilling thing about their comeback is not the countless sold out shows and the critical and commercial acclaim that greeted 2013’s ‘Bloodsports’ and 2016’s ‘Night Thoughts’ but it’s the band reaching a new audience. ‘The Blue Hour’ could very well be someone’s first Suede album.
“That’s a lovely idea, it’s nice to think like that,” says Brett. “There was a nice moment at one of our Japanese gigs last year. A girl came to a signing session and said: 'This is my second Suede gig, my first one was when I was in my mummy's tummy when she was pregnant'. The mother was a Suede fan back in the 90s and now the daughter is as well. She’s discovered us through our contemporary stuff. They’re really nice stories.”
The theme of youthful discovery carries on to the album in which Brett looked at his songwriting from a different perspective.
“I started off writing from a child’s point of view. I find it increasingly necessary to have an entry point or motivation for writing. It’s a multi-layered idea. You can look at it on a simplistic level, but you can also look at it as an expression of vulnerability. You’re talking about vulnerability, fear and hesitation. Those emotions are basic human emotions.”
The album also has a strong theme of setting and environment. “There are lots of themes on the record,” reveals Brett. "We were taking the geographical locations of the songs to somewhere different. Suede have always been known for being an urban band. Lot’s of the imagery here is deliberately non-urban. It’s the strange, scruffy hinterland and the forgotten in-between spaces. It’s not set in a car park in the middle of a city.”
Despite the bleakness of the album, it’s tempered with hope and a beauty hidden in the grime.
“It’s the ultimate quest of any songwriter getting the balance between the dark and the light,” says Brett. “It veers towards the bleak, but some of my favourite records are bleak. I don’t like jolly music; I don’t want Suede to be jolly. We’re not a good time band. As I get older life in many ways gets darker but also gets lighter and simpler.”
‘The Blue Hour’ is an album constructed to take you on a journey through the light and shade.
“It’s important to be honest about life. Life can be a lonely, scary place. It’s a struggle and sometimes feels like a dark place. Within that, there are moments of joy and beauty, and you try and reflect those things. The beauty of an album is that it can go through so many moods.”
Brett rejects any notion that it’s a comment on the unstable times we’re living in.
“It reflects a sense of instability, but I’ve never wanted to write overtly political songs,” he says. “I don’t see that as a musician’s job. For me, the artist’s job isn’t to give explanations. The artist's job is to deepen the mystery and hint at things.”
The album is instead primarily a reflection of something purer.
“As a parent, having a child is an act of optimism. The record is a reflection of parenthood. To be a parent you have to believe that the world isn't going to be a disastrous place. That’s where the light comes from on the record.”
There’s a lot that goes into ‘The Blue Hour’, but it acts as possibly the most complete summation of Suede and where they are at this second golden period in their career. “I wanted this record to have a complexity and depth that is rewarding,” concludes Brett. “There are some songs that I’m very proud of that I think stand up with our best work.”
Taken from the October issue of Dork. Suede's album 'The Blue Hour' is out 21st September.
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