Suede - A New Morning
A New Morning could have had the best CD cover of all time had it really only been a swirl of paint on across the front of the CD jewel case. Instead of looking as though it had originally been designed for a 12" album sleeve, shrunk for the benefit of the smaller CD case, A New Morning, had it dispensed with the booklet and featured nothing but that splash of colour would have been daring. Unfortunately, like the music it contains, A New Morning is Suede playing it safe and on opening the case, a booklet is indeed present with a front cover featuring an image of a CD. Ho hum...
A New Morning is Suede's back-to-basics album after the gloom of Dog Man Star, the shining pop of Coming Up and the electronic melancholy of Head Music. As such, it recalls their debut but with such songs as Postivity and even the title of the album itself, the mood of A New Morning is so much more upbeat than anything previously recorded by Suede, with the possible exception of Coming Up. Unlike that album, however, which was destined to be played whilst getting ready to go out, A New Morning is an album that features light summer pop/rock of the kind that drifts out of car stereos on drives out to the beach in July and August. Where previous Suede albums were dense and catastrophic, A New Morning is open and frequently sparse with sufficient space given for it to pass almost unnoticed but, when given time,
As soon as the album starts, the change in Brett Anderson's voice is noticeable. Gone is the wail that featured on the Butler-era albums, which was necessary as he fought to be heard above the layers of guitars but the effects that saw him treated as little more than one more instrument on Head Music are also absent. Instead, whilst never the owner of the most powerful voice, Anderson is given space to sing as never before and reveals a passionate voice where, previously, there was detachment. Of course, having brought Alex Lee in from The Blue Aeroplanes and Strangelove on guitar, piano and anything else he's capable of turning his hand to has given Suede the opportunity to bring more colour into their instrumentation and A New Morning uses this to drift from the blissful pop of Positivity - "And the morning is for you...the birds sing for you" - through the wonderfully rich Astrogirl, which is enhanced by Lee's writing and his playing of the mellotron, guitar and piano to the drama of Untitled, also co-written by Lee and that fades into the beautifully low-key ...Morning. Less impressive are those songs that are not much more than b-sides, which is all too evident with Obsessions and One Hit To The Body that are, quite frankly, lifeless and not much better than anything included on the second disc of Sci-Fi Lullabies.
The big problems as regards A New Morning are twofold and both are as a result of its pulling back in from the experiments that scored earlier Suede albums. Despite the deliberate lightness across the album, it can sound inconsequential and lacking the sense of it being a coherent album. Whilst it is a collection of great songs, A New Morning sounds just that and not an album to rank alongside Suede's earlier albums, which tended to have a theme across them. That's not to say a Suede concept album would be any more appealing but where Dog Man Star and Coming Up had a purpose to them, A New Morning sounds as though eleven tracks were completed and delivered as an album without there being any whittling down off a much greater selection.
The other problem A New Morning is that when bands get back to basics, the result is almost always disappointing. Despite Raphael Pour-Hashami giving it a favourable review, listening to The Beatles' albums in order will often reveal the rock songs on Let It Be - Get Back and Don't Let Me Down - to be hugely disappointing after the flashes of brilliance that lit up I Am The Walrus, Magical Mystery Tour and Tomorrow Never Knows. As Angus Young of AC/DC once memorably put it, why bother moving on if you're only ever going to come back to where you were.
A New Morning, whilst home to a few songs that would easily make it on to a Suede best-of, really isn't what one would expect. Of course, the changes in line-up that have occurred over the last ten years cannot help but on the evidence of Lost In TV, Astrogirl, Untitled and ...Morning, Suede are still capable of greatness but with such moments becoming increasingly rare, perhaps it was best to call time on the band, at least for now.