This album arrived on the day I managed to get tickets for Suede’s March 2023 gig at the O2 Academy in Glasgow, a gig I’ll be going to with my three friends, repeating our first ever trip to see the band back in 1994 in Aberdeen on the Dog Man Star tour.
As well as showing our age, that period also speaks to Suede’s incredible longevity; not many bands have successful careers as long as Suede, and, of those bands at a similar career stage, few are capable of producing an album as good as Autofiction.
The band have spoken about Autofiction being created to replicate their live power, and that ambition is well realized here. The albums the band have released since Bloodsports, their first album post-reunion, had tended more towards their experimental side, with the actual depth of the songs shining through when the albums were toured. Autofiction comprises eleven songs that sound like they were recorded by a band ready to unleash them live, and the album benefits from that approach.
“She Still Leads Me On” starts the album off on the front foot with post-punk guitar lines bringing to mind “Ceremony” by Joy Division and Brett Anderson sounding as good as he has ever sounded. One thing that jumps out on Autofiction is Brett’s vocals. There’s confidence and real power to them, which backs up his belief about the band’s current performance levels when discussing this album and its recording process.
Certain songs on Autofiction celebrate the band’s early high points, with “Personality Disorder” having a Suede era-like title and sounding like a song that could have come from their debut. Similarly, “15 Again” recalls Coming Up, its chorus as poppy as anything the band have produced since then.
“The Only Way I Can Love You” and “The Boy On The Stage” keep the pace up with Anderson again sounding fantastic on the latter before the Dog Man Star-like drama of “Drive Myself Home” slows things down slightly. It’s a glorious song and one of the album’s standout tracks.
“Black Ice” also recalls Dog Man Star, bringing to mind “This Hollywood Life” or “New Generation”, and another standout, “Shadow Self”, follows. The penultimate track, “What Am I Without You?” is one of those songs that only Suede can do well; only they can bring that dramatic feel to a song. Autofiction ends on “Take Your Brain Off And Yell”, a muscular, pounding end to an album by a band sounding fresher and more vibrant than they have in a long time.
To continue to produce quality albums more than 30 years into a career is one thing, but to produce an album as full of quality and as energetic as Autofiction is far more impressive. With this album, Suede again shows that they are a band full of surprises. At next March’s concert, I cannot wait to see how these songs come across live. While my friends and I may not have the energy we did in 1994, Suede certainly seem to. Long may they continue to have that, and long may they carry on.