Suede is a band whose history is rather legendary not just because of how rife with drama Brett Anderson’s personal issues once were, but because of how shrouded in mystery their albums have remained to a public beyond English waters. With their debut self-titled album released in 1993, Suede established a unique sound of their own that would momentarily be lumped in with the Britpop genre of Blur and Oasis. But with subsequent 90s albums, Dog Man Star, Coming Up and Head Music, Suede firmly proved to critics and fans alike that they were un-classifiable in any genre. After the band’s brief dismantlement in the wake of 2002’s A New Morning, the group re-formed for 2013’s Bloodsports, an album that lacked the conviction present on their latest Night Thoughts.
With its dramatic introduction, “When You Are Young,” Suede shows us that there is no other band that can give us a string section with half as much rock n’ roll edge. Anderson finds himself in a contemplative stride as he croons, “When you are young/There are bottled blooms and twisted drums/When you are young/There is nothing right and nothing wrong/You will play in the maze/’Til your mother she calls you away.” With his quintessentially melancholic lilt, Anderson perfectly segues into “Outsiders,” a seamless transition that might just trump the one between “Freak” and “Art Deco” on Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon. Proving that there is no one more prone to poeticism in lyrics, Anderson paints the picture: “By the roadside shrine there’s a place/Selling bouquets of cellophane/That’s where they meet in this desolate place/And the more they see the more they say/Thrown like two winter roses into a broken vase.”
“No Tomorrow” picks up the pace of the record, while still maintaining the reflective philosophical tone Suede is known for with the questions, “How long will it take to mend? How long will it take? How long will it take to break the plans I never make?”
The perfect seasonal track, “Pale Snow” evokes the images of wilting promise with the symbolism of “Pale are the snowflakes that fall for us/There’s one tiny shoe outside in the corridor/Pale are the primrose you grew my love/The color of your skin pale and paper thin.”
The most heart-wrenching song on the album, “I Don’t Know How To Reach You,” highlights a problem most people eventually encounter in a relationship, that of losing control of the other person–or rather, losing one’s hold on them. Anderson sums this moment up with the lamentation, “And I don’k know how to reach you/I don’t know where to look/I turn away, I fold the page, I close the book/I’d steal a shadow for you/I’d love you like a knife/From the towers I try to call you/From the depths of the power lines.” But, no matter what he does, she is lost to him, as indicated by his final repetition, “I never thought it would happen/Happen to me.”
Self-loathing persists on the upbeat tempo of “What I’m Trying To Tell You,” in which Anderson bewails, “I don’t have the Midas touch/I never make a good impression/And yes, I have the scars of ambition/And its many expressions/And I don’t know the price of stuff/And no, I don’t command attention/And I don’t have sophistication/Or the right connections.” He brings back the romance typically reserved for sonnets with his lovely compliment to the woman of his desire: “There’s no room in the world for your kind of beauty/Yours are the names on tomorrows newspapers/Yours is the face of the desperate edge of now/When, like the snows of yesteryear I’ll be gone from this earth.”
The dramatic musical instrument harmony of Mat Osman, Simon Gilbert, Richard Oakes and Neil Codling combine to bring us “Tightrope,” an earnest plea to find balance in a relationship wherein the other person plays your emotions, accented by the analogy, “On a tightrope with you/Too scared to look down through my fingers/Walking a tightrope with you/I made my mistake when I slipped through the noose.”
Like “When You Are Young” and “Outsiders,” “Tightrope” bleeds into “Learning To Be,” a moody, soft-spoken track that details the regret of a lost love. Its brevity adds to its gravity as Anderson sings, “I come tumbling out of a single bed/To be with you again/And isn’t it strange that the method I choose/Is a way to get close, but I get further from you?/I try to step away/But I’m too scared to move/Like I’m in love again.”
Continuing on the theme of youth, “Like Kids” is the most light-hearted sounding song on Night Thoughts, with Anderson’s sense of levity pronounced by his hopeful declaration, “Oh, it’s all there for us/Oh, it belongs to us/Oh, and there’s nothing we can’t reach.” Perhaps, in some regard, this is how Anderson feels being reunited with a band that was dangerously close to not coming together again.
Mirroring the problems of “I Don’t Know How To Reach You,” “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants” finds Anderson ruing his inability to satisfy the one he loves, as illustrated by the literary description, “As I weave my fingers round her perfumed throat/No I can’t give her what she wants/I can’t give her what she really needs/I can’t give her what she wants/It’d push her away.”
The second to last song is one that not only serves as a sort of follow-up to “When You Are Young,” but is also sure to make you forget The Killers ever had a track of the same name. “When You Were Young” features the same grandiose guitar riffs of the opening track, with the specifically selected, regurgitated lyrics, “Where you were young/There were muddled plans and distant drums/When you were young there was nothing right and nothing wrong/You would play in the maze/‘Till your mother she called you away.”
In one last glorious transition, we are taken to the lush world of “The Fur and the Feathers.” The track centers on the notion of how life is, at its core, all about the hunt–maybe even more than it is about love. Anderson wails, “And who knows what we’ve begun/We are thrown together/From the moment we are young/The fur and the feathers, the fox and the geese/The thrill of the chase/It’s the thrill of the chase.” With Night Thoughts, Suede not only surpasses their previous work, but also solidifies “that there’s a meaning beyond the flesh.” That meaning is their music, with specific regard to their songwriting.