Framed as Brett Anderson’s return to the rock format, 'Black Rainbows' is his fourth solo album release in as many years. It is his best effort yet, displaying a confidence in his songcraft not heard since his time in The Tears, the short-lived reunion with songwriting partner Bernard Butler.
There has been a clear sense of progression is his work since the solo self-titled debut, which was hugely disappointing. The strongest two songs were 'To The Winter' and 'Song For My Father' and Anderson took the classical template of these songs into his next album, 'Wilderness'. Featuring only a piano, strings and occasionally acoustic guitar, it was almost as if Anderson had gone back to basics to rebuild his songwriting abilities. 'Slow Attack' followed, a lovely autumnal, bucolic work which inspired by Talk Talk saw him developing his use of atmospherics.
The gorgeous epic opener of 'Unsung' feels like a triumphant culmination of these solo works, embracing all their best elements. Brett’s lyrics have been consistently intriguing, often verging between the sublime and ridiculous but his lyric "I’ll give you carpet burns" on the following track and single 'Brittle Heart' just about sits in the former category. Some will find the rich metaphors (e.g "ashtray eyes" and "antiseptic skies") dotted throughout the record a little tiring and intangible but they give the record a unique character.
The album was borne out of cutting up improvised jam sessions without any songs written beforehand. This definitely works to the record’s advantage, particularly on the Cure-esque 'Crash About To Happen' which is built around a warm jangly-pop riff. The way Anderson sings "Falling, falling" on the terrific 'Actors' is majestic, while 'Thin Men Dancing' possesses a sleazy menace unheard since the mighty 'We Are The Pigs'.
When he sings "I am learning, I am still learning" on 'The Exiles', it’s a clear reflection of Anderson’s determination to further develop his songwriting abilities in contrast to many of his Brit Pop peers. However, similar to 'Wilderness' and 'Slow Attack', 'Black Rainbows' can be a little one-paced, although 'This Must Be Where It Ends' and closing track 'Possession' provide some welcome variation.
Following Suede’s triumphant reunion shows. Anderson has subsequently confirmed the indie-rock legends will attempt to record a new album over the next few months. It would be a shame therefore if this record was ignored as 'Black Rainbows' is a high-quality effort in its own right and finds Anderson back towards the top of his game. Excitingly, given the upward trend in his solo efforts so far, the best is yet to come, whether it is with Suede or not.
STREAM: Brett Anderson - Brittle Heart by Cosmos Music Group
'Black Rainbows' is available to purchase at iTunes, amazon.co.uk etc.