Its been some fifteen years since Melody Maker proclaimed Suede “the best new band in Britain”, before they’d even physically released any material on an expectant public. Its worth remembering that back in the internet-less age of 1992, there was no way outside of radio play that we could ever have heard the music of these great indie dreamers. I recall reading the article at the time, and could do little more than naively trust the music press and go along for the ride. And yes, I was suckered in, purchasing my copy of The Drowners along with other floppy fringed rascals. And I wasn’t disappointed. You have to wonder though how different things could have been - had Melody Maker championed Strangelove, for example, or another of Suede’s peers. Would the talents of Anderson and Butler found a way to shine through. Did the adulation shape their success, and their eventual downfall.
For it is fair to say that there are few bright spots in Anderson’s career outside of the those first two albums. The debut was strong, but its follow-up Dog Man Star remains one of the key British releases of the decade - a powerful body of work every bit as important as Loveless, and Parklife. However, the departure of Butler saw the production increase in its slickness, with brevity and punch the order of the day, marking the end result less interesting than the imaginative scope of what came before. It was no surprise after A New Morning to see the band come to an end, and even more of a surprise to see Butler and Anderson reunite for The Tears. Whether this pursuit was a genuine artistic endeavor or an attempt to please the man from the Income Tax office, the results proved that Anderson still had the passion to make good music. And now the solo album - long since mooted, showcasing a change to Anderson’s character.
The sheen and glamour of Suede is not to be heard in this release. The closest comparisons I can make are to the b-sides of Stay Together, The Living Dead and Dark Star, but with a lyrical shift to its themes. Anderson seems more pre-occupied now with nature and trees than motorway hard shoulders and tower blocks. The sound is also softer - I hate to use the word “mature”, or wave the card with “Radio Two” written on it in your face, but this album is far more mellow than anything he has ever produced before. Lead single Love is Dead is a good indication - a slow, evocative lament where Brett mourns the loss of anything good in his life, saddened by the unlikelihood that anything good will ever occur again. One Lazy Morning is also down tempo in theme, opening with a piano piece that wouldn’t sound amiss on a Keane album.
Thankfully, Dust and Rain has more pace, with lyrics that could only have come from the Notebook of Brett - “I am the dust, you are the rain, I am the needle, you are the vein”. A snappy drum track and choppy guitar carry this song through, into the bellowed chorus and sleazy nature of Intimacy.
Not every track works. Scorpio Rising borders dangerously into the territory of soft rock, a useless guitar intro and fake sounding drums plodding into a song that goes nowhere. To The Winter is also an annoyance; “She’s In Fashion” strings and a tuneless vocal attempting to match what little melody exists. Colour of the Night opens with a “lick my love pump” piano solo, trying hard to be poignant but lacking any spark. The most criticism though must be levelled at The More We Possess - naff preachy lyrics condemning those who own more than one car or too many dresses - it sounds funny for all the wrong reasons and threatens to send the album crashing into the nearest re-cycling centre.
However, the good songs are very good - Infinite Kiss packed with swooping strings and dramatic guitars, Ebony as well showing much more promise, a charming and delicate piece with a fine vocal. Song For My Father is also a delight, showing Brett’s more natural side in a touching, personal song that manages to drift from self obsession to a reflective mournful longing from line to line.
There are no stomping choruses on this album - no filthy glamour or tales of excess and abuse. Here we have a collection of songs that seem cathartic, cheap therapy for Brett Anderson to unload his angst and grief. Sadly, the indifference The Tears received perhaps suggests that there are few that are interested, but none the less this patchy effort does possess some bright spots that will be of interest to Suede fans who now find themselves with mortgages and babysitters.