I remember the moment Suede announced their decision to split up in 2003 vividly. I wasn’t particularly disappointed as their last album 'A New Morning' was, by some distance, their worst record - a band that had made such a colossal impact on British music with their debut album had gone out with a whimper. 'Bloodsports' is Suede’s opportunity to remind people what the fuss was all about in the first place.
The early signs were very promising. Suede’s return to the live arena won rave reviews and Brett Anderson said there would not be a new record unless it was great. 'Barriers' was the first release from the record and it duly also opens 'Bloodsports'. It’s a fantastic song, with all the signature elements of Suede’s songs but added to an earthiness that should make it accessible to a wider audience.
It also introduces the arena-scale production of the record which I’m sure some will grate about. However, given the band have been keen to capture the atmosphere of their concerts and the subject matter of the record, which covers the life cycle of a relationship, it makes sense. It’s almost natural that the heightened emotions such as infatuation, obsession and desolation that are explored in the songs are presented in such an epic way.
There are hooks aplenty on this album, with 'Snowblind' having a menacing guitar riff before Anderson unleashes a soaring chorus, while lead single 'It Starts And Ends With You' and 'Hit Me' are unapologetically pop anthems that wouldn’t be amiss on earlier record 'Coming Up' which spawned five UK Top 10 singles. It’s that album which Suede use as the template for this record, sharing its mastery of melody and economy.
The guitar outro to 'Sabotage' is wonderful, taking the song to another level while 'For The Strangers' is a gorgeous, simple ballad that is the musical cousin of 'By The Sea'. After the breathtaking opening six songs of the record, the band wisely slow things down for the latter part of the album. 'Sometimes I’ll Float Away' is one of my favourite songs on the album, reminding us what a brilliant lyricist Anderson is "Let me take you through each stage of the male mistake and we’ll adopt our natural roles".
'What Are You Not Telling Me' is an atmospheric, yearning love song which reveals a more experimental side to the band and it’s a risk that pays off. Although 'Always' doesn’t quite follow through on the promise of its build-up, 'Faultlines' closes out the record perfectly, a beautiful passionate ballad that evokes those songs that play over the end credits of a romantic drama.
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently asked "Where has all the charisma and the sexuality and the gnarl gone?" With 'Bloodsports', Suede have brought it well and truly back into rock music. In a scene dominated by bands whose scale of ambition is limited to introducing strings into albums, Suede are as vital now as they were in 1993. The album’s so good that it has set a new standard for comebacks. Suede have always been at their best when they’ve had something to prove and 'Bloodsports' is even better than I could have dared hope.
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