After such a long time out of the game, most returning artists would opt for caution and conservatism on a comeback album on the reasonably safe assumption that their time had been and gone, and that such an album should be used as an excuse to break out all the old hits on the accompanying tour. The Verve’s tepid Forth leaps to mind. As authors of several outstanding hit singles in the 1990s and often credited with kicking off the movement known as ‘Britpop’, Suede more than most could have been expected to play it safe. But Bloodsports, their first album in 11 years, is a pleasant surprise for long-term fans dispirited by singer Brett Anderson’s pointless solo career.
The band themselves said that their new material would sound like a cross between 1994’s flawed masterpiece Dog Man Star and the radio-friendly commercial success of 1996’s Coming Up. While it falls well short of this rather bold ambition, Bloodsports is a trim, polished collection of ten FM-rock bullets that displays twice the energy and focus of many new bands. The heroic riff of single ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ and the skyscraping drama of opener ‘Barriers’ are the best illustrations. The glamorous yet trashy hooks of ‘Snowblind’ and ‘Sabotage’ tap straight back into the commercial successes of prime-time Suede. At no point does the band veer into the experimental territory of 1999’s ill-advised Head Music, but while this is a sound decision there is often too little variation. After a while the smooth, shiny production becomes slightly wearisome – the fuzzy introspection of ‘What Are You Not Telling Me?’ is the only deviation – but the real story here is surely how revitalised Suede sound. Bloodsports finally rights the wrong of 2002’s criminally dreadful A New Morning and sees one of the best bands of the 1990s crown their legacy in fine style.
words: Ed Biggs