Growing up with class

Suede comprise (from left) Neil Codling, Richard Oakes, Brett Anderson, Mat Osman and Simon Gilbert.
Suede comprise (from left) Neil Codling, Richard Oakes, Brett Anderson, Mat Osman and Simon Gilbert.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Britpop stalwart Suede's latest album, Night Thoughts, paints rich tales of doomed romantics and the fear of losing loved ones

Brett Anderson, frontman and principal songwriter of 1990s Britpop stalwarts Suede, is two years shy of 50.

Aptly, their seventh album - their second since reuniting in 2010 - perfectly captures the melodrama of dealing with the passing of time.

They have come some way since their pointed, bittersweet anthems for young urban misfits expressed in uplifting rock tunes and grandiose ballads.

While there are clearly great songs here - such as the uplifting high of Outsiders and the sentimentality of Tightrope - Night Thoughts, a concept album composed to accompany a short film, is a cohesive collection meant to be savoured in its entirety.

Anderson and company paint rich tales of doomed romantics and the fear of losing loved ones that unfold throughout the dozen tunes, accompanied by the band's symphonic, reverb-laden sounds.

In the arena-rock build-up of album opener When You Are Young, there is longing for simpler times, when "there is nothing right and nothing wrong" and the protagonists in the songs can "play in the maze, till your mother she calls you away".




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The theme comes full circle 10 songs later in the reprise, When You Were Young, revisiting the same stories in the past tense.

Anderson said in an interview that he was inspired by his experiences in raising his children while working on the new songs, and Outsiders and Like Kids, too, hark back to the giddiness of youth.

All the while, the moody textures of minor chord progression and melancholic melodies soundtrack the yearning to salvage dissipating relationships.

"I bought you those pretty things, but you gave them back," Anderson narrates on I Don't Know How To Reach You, a reflection that continues on What I'm Trying To Tell You and I Can't Give Her What She Wants.

Then comes perky rocker No Tomorrow ("Fight the sorrow/Come, there's no tomorrow"), which displays a conscious effort to not let the mundaneness of everyday life get one down.

Coming out barely two weeks after British music icon David Bowie's death, Night Thoughts shows how much Suede was influenced by the Thin White Duke.

Like most of their releases since their 1993 debut, Bowie's touch is there in the songs' glam-rock aural aesthetics and penchant for romanticising the ones who live on the fringes of society.

This is most prominent on the tracks The Fur And The Feathers ("We are thrown together/And who knows what we'll become/The fur and the feathers, the fox and the geese") and Outsiders ("Thrown like two winter roses into a broken vase/They're playing the hand they play").

Still, Night Thoughts plays on the strength of Suede's legacy - the catchy pop of 1996's Coming Up and layered grandeur of 1994's Dog Man Star.

It is the sound of a band growing up with class.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Growing up with class'. Print Edition | Subscribe