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Suede

Bloodsports

INGROOVES/FONTANA

Mar 15, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


After an 11-year dearth of new material, Britpop’s pompous progenitors are back from what we’d long feared might be the musical hereafter. And thankfully, Suede aren’t re-uniting under false pretenses and with fresh faces: this is a full return of the band’s longest-lived lineup. Bloodsports is the sort of comeback record that any band returning after a decade-long hiatus can only hope for: Suede is back, without the least hint of dust or deterioration.

Right from the beginning, with the half-minute lead-in to “Barriers,” Bloodsports sounds like core Suede. They’ve brought back Ed Buller, their go-to producer from the debut through the third album, and he’s given it all a vintage gloss; Brett Anderson’s vocals are brazenly up-front in the mix, and the guitar tones are as gratifyingly dirty-sounding as they were during the band’s prime. Tonally, Bloodsports strikes a pose somewhere between the magnificently dark Dog Man Star and its more upbeat successor, Coming Up. Clamorous rockers such as the fuzzed-out “Hit Me” and hooky “It Starts and Ends With You” are threaded in with moodier numbers, such as the splendidly melodramatic “Sabotage” and “For the Strangers.” Anderson takes the pageantry even further in the pleading balladry of “What Are You Not Telling Me?” and the aching “Always.” This is far from a subtle record, but Suede’s propensity for emotional showboating is one of those endearing traits that always set them apart from their contemporaries.

You don’t need to be told how rare it is for a band to disappear for a decade and then bounce back without seeming to miss a beat. Their time away is instantly forgiven: Suede sounds rejuvenated here. Calling Bloodsports a comeback album almost seems to belittle just how strong a record it really is; it’s nearly as good as any they’ve put out before. (www.suede.co.uk)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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j
March 15th 2013
12:23pm

After 11 years, Suede are back and have put out an album called, “bloodsports” which is just as consistent as any of their first three records. It may not reach the heights of those efforts, but still contains that ‘Suede’ sound that lifelong fans have grown to love. My favorite thing about this album, unlike 1999’s “Head Music,” is that they sound like a band again. The first 3 albums strung together so effortlessly. Even the chronologically tracked Sci Fi Lullabies had an album-like flow, even though it wasn’t even intentionally structured that way.

At this point, many have heard the (non-single) “Barriers” and “It Starts and Ends With You.” The sound of Ed Buller is very apparent on this album. I’ve always loved the spacious, almost 70’s retro sound he achieved with the band back in the early/mid 90’s. Now, even though this album recalls their earlier sound, it does also have more of a ‘modern’ touch. The drums sound is much more in-your-face. The kick drum is mixed a lot louder than in the past and the eq on the snare makes it rich and deep sounding. Ed has certainly grown as a producer, though I still wouldn’t change a thing that he did on the earlier records. He has always had his own style, which you could hear on other albums, including Pulp’s, “His N Hers,” one of my all time favorites. Also back to the forefront is the massive amount of vocal reverb which suits the melodrama in bretts lyrics and voice respecively. I consider him the 5th Suede member of Suede mk1 and mk2. He really takes their songs to another level and refines them. Suede played 8 new songs in 2011 and he told them to start over from scratch, which is a good thing considering there were only a couple good songs in that bunch.

After the rocker, “Barriers,” we get another uptempo track called “Snowblind,” which instantly recalls the guitar tones of “Coming Up” and the almost megaphone-esque vocal sound of that same era. It has a strong riff, and the ‘woo-hoo’ hook is (always) more than welcome. The verse is very catchy, however, the chorus seems to lack an interesting hook. However, what makes this song great is its progression and structure. Like, “It Starts and Ends With You” this song takes through different sections effortlessly and keeps you interested straight through until the guitar soling at the end.

...Which brings us to the 1st single, “It Starts and Ends With You.” Initially, I was disappointed that it wasnt terribly interesting sounding But after hearing it multiple times, I like whats here. It has a good verse, pre-chorus and chorus/post-chorus. I really think this song could have used a bridge, guitar solo or even a key change later on to break it up a bit. It gets a bit monotone after the 2nd chorus and could use something else. That said, this song really works well as a “track 3.” and really has an appropriate “place” on the album. It still does not strike me as a single though.

It would have been smarter to release, “Hit Me” as the comeback single. Its a strong song that instantly recalls the sound of “Coming Up” and is arranged and structured just as well as any of their previous hits. The “la, la” post-chorus sections really make the song something special. Its the sort of hook that the first single was lacking. Another song it reminds me of is ‘The Tears-The Lovers,’ with better production.

“Sabotage” and “For the Strangers” are as great on the album as they are live. When the band premieres this album live, most of it is probably going to sound just like it does on the album because the arrangement is very straightforward. They captured the bands live sound-something that they did so well on the first 3 releases. “Sabotage” has some of Brett’s best lyrics since “Dog Man Star” and “For the Strangers” is a pretty, distorted ballad that sounds like an instant Suede classic.

The second half of the album strips away the distorted guitars and replaces them with cleaner sound, complete with long trailing reverb and eerie keyboards to build those strange, ‘Dog Man Star-esque’ soundscapes. “What Are You Not Telling Me” is a beautiful song that recalls that earlier Suede sound. The wobbly keyboard and stacatto string rhythms really take this song somewhere else. A definite highlight. “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” is another great tune. It has the atmosphere of “self titled, “is sung extremely well and it even has an interlude with a rhythm that reminds me of “Where the Pigs Don’t fly”

As far as vocals go, Brett is on the money this time. There were some dodgy lyrics and vocal performances on 2002’s A New Morning,” but Brett is in top form here. The second half of this album sounds very much like Brett’s “Slow Attack”, except its done the way it should be done, with the musicians and producer that he belongs working with.

“Always” is probably my least favorite, as the chorus falls a little flat. However, the verse is very melodic and it even sounds a lot like “Hey You” by Pink Floyd in the chord structure, guitar arpeggios and bass work. I really like how the drums come in during the second verse, giving the song some breathing space and dynamics.

The album closes with “Faultlines,” which also references that “Slow attack” or “Wilderness” sound. In fact, the chord progression and vocal melody remind me of Anderson’s song, “Clowns” but this is much better. Its no “Next Life” or “Still Life” but its a very good song.

Okay, what album review would be complete without some slight criticism. I’d say each of the 10 songs are good. Some are even great.. It is a very consistent work. The (dare i say it) most consistent since, “Coming Up” for sure. I don’t think its as good as the first 3 albums, but its hard to argue with any of the song choices for it…well, maybe until we hear the b-sides!

This is simply a very good beginning to a new era of Suede, with the right producer doing his job. The lyrics are great, though, he really needs to stop using those ‘Brett similes’: “Like a __, Like a __” which he’s been singing forever. Also, I do like that “Bloodsports” is a concept album about a relationship’s beginning, middle and end. However, I hope he takes a new route for the next album. I believe this turned into a concept album about relationships because its all he really writes about lately. I’d love to hear more songs about, oh, I dont know, “jumble sale mums,” and “stolen ice cream vans,” for example. The lyrics seem to be more straightforward and I would like to hear him mix it up a bit
.
Another thing I would like to see in their next effort is catchier choruses. There are obvious singles from this album such as, “Hit Me,” “For the Strangers” but I would like to see some more “anthemic” tracks on an album. “Snowblind” could have been a strong single, but the chorus sounds kind of anticlimactic to me.

I love the guitar playing of Richard Oakes, but if some more catchier riffs were thrown into the album, I believe it could have elevated my score. For example, that riff in “Barriers” And “It Starts and Ends With You” are a bit simplistic alongside, such riffs as “Animal Nitrate,” “Chemistry Between Us…” you name it. Now, I love Bernard Butler’s playing just as much as anyone, but I consider Oakes a great guitarist in his own right. The guitar riff in “Every Monday Morning Comes” is probably one of my favorite Suede riffs. “Beautiful Ones” is just arpeggiated and suspended chords, but it works so well as a riff and is one of ‘their’ best.

Another criticism is that I would like to see a longer album next time. The running time is around 39 minutes which might be their shortest album. I do like that there are 10 songs. Yes, ‘Coming up’ was 10 songs but this album feels like it should have more of an epic length because of the ‘Dog man star-ic’ qualities it has. I would also love to hear more string work and background vocals the next time around. They intentionally stayed away from using any background vocals on this album, like the first 2 albums, but I think the harmonizing on “Coming Up” really added something great to an already great band. There are strings on the album, but not a lot. The only ‘real’ strings are on “What Are You Not Telling Me.” As far as success goes, I think this album will do well with with old fans but I don’t think it will reach many “new” fans. I think if they rely on catchier hooks might see a new fan-base and turn heads more, but like I said before, there are 10 good songs here and its hard to argue about the quality of any of them.

So, in short, a very good, consistent effort. A welcome comeback and, most importantly, a beginning of a new era with the right producer aboard. it gives us hope that we will possibly we see another classic in the future.

Larrypreot
August 22nd 2019
3:34pm

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