What makes a band continue to put out music well after its glory days? For Suede, the pinnacle of their Britpop success was the mid-to-late-’90s. They released such classic albums as Dog Man Star (1994) and Coming Up (1996) but went silent after A New Morning (2002). And they already did the comeback album thing with 2013’s Bloodsports. Night Thoughts, then, is simply Suede making music for the sake of music, and that’s abundantly clear when listening to these 12 tracks. Don’t be fooled, the album has been teased with just as much fervor as any album masquerading as a rock opera, with an accompanying feature-length film screened last year synced to a live performance of the album. This is definitely not Suede playing it low-key.

On Night Thoughts, the defining addition to Suede’s usual glammed-out alt rock is a full string section. Opening the album with broody strings, “When You Are Young” is a tantalizing slow build that, once in full swing, is more of a mournful dirge. Brett Anderson croons, “When you are young/ There is nothing right and nothing wrong/ You will play in the maze/ ’Til your mother she calls you away.” The track forms the thematic basis of the album, a heady mix of familial woes, violence and loss. Follow-up “Outsiders” is classic Suede in the best way possible, fueled by Richard Oakes’ distorted guitar riffs and Anderson’s ever-evocative falsetto. The message itself at once celebrates youthful idealism and languishes in its loss, a not wholly surprising thematic stance for a band in their golden years.

Like Bloodsports, this album doesn’t attempt to reinvent or even experiment with Suede’s sound. There are a host of songs that recall highlights from Coming Up‘s guitar pop, from the fascination with outcasts and the prevalence of crunching guitar lines on “Outsiders” and “Like Kids” to the swirling riffs of “I Don’t Know How to Reach You” and the chugging minor guitar line on “No Tomorrow.” The most dramatic moments here are surprisingly restrained (for Suede). “Pale Snow” and “Tightrope,” in particular, are impressive achievements in transforming their rock ballads into something truly melancholy. More in that mid-’90s vein, the latter incorporates the orchestral elements to perfection, with guitars reverbed to the max giving way to emotive strings in the final moments. “Pale Snow,” though, is unlike anything else, an ambient track that smolders through eerie synths and a childlike, three-key piano line. “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants” is likewise stripped down to Anderson’s inimitable vocal, Oakes’ starry guitar and twinkling keys.

The choice to have these tracks bleed into one another makes Night Thoughts seem all the more like 50 uninterrupted minutes of morose Britpop (which it is), but it can cause listeners to lose track of where one song ends and another begins and it unnecessarily muddles them all together. Anderson’s nostalgic crooning blends together, and the pattern of slow-building vocals to glam guitars to a wailing finale becomes rote. No song sounds overwhelmingly like another, but they do all sound like the Suede we’ve heard before. And this time their “night thoughts” might just make you more drowsy than introspective.

There’s no distinct narrative to the album, but it instead serves as a collection of Anderson’s ruminations on life, love and the many sources of angst therein (one chorus actually goes, “Fight the sorrow”). The “night thoughts” of the title are quite literally the nostalgia and regret that too often delay sleep. The depression and desperation is blatant, even in the song titles (see: “I Don’t Know How to Reach You,” “What I’m Trying to Tell You” and “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants”). But, as with any good Suede album, Night Thoughts revels in this ecstasy of sadness, taking every opportunity to turn the maudlin into the grandiose. That the entire album necessarily comes from a place of reflection gives its emotional highs and lows all the more authenticity.

  • Monthly Mixtape: July 2013

    David Lynch & Lykke Li – “I’m Waiting Here” (Sacred Bones) David Lynch has alway…
  • Holy Hell! Suede Turns 20

    There is a perfect period in the mid ‘90s where Britpop became a musical juggernaut, where…
  • From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

    Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…
  • Oeuvre: Campion: Holy Smoke!

    Holy Smoke! manages to revisit some of the same themes as The Piano yet in a less cohesive…
  • Mountain

    Like Planet Earth, Mountain offers beautiful shots of some of the most treacherous places …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…