ALBUM REVIEW: Suede – The Blue Hour

9/10

Like many of the other legendary indie bands who graced the 90s, Suede are right back on their very best form, making music that sounds and FEELS essential. Many would argue that Brett Anderson and his group have been creatively revived ever since their 2003 split was followed by a brilliant comeback earlier this decade. 2013 saw the release of the anthemic Bloodsports, while 2016’s Night Thoughts took a step into darker introspection. It seems that Suede are on a roll; The Blue Hour is the best album of the trilogy, and Suede’s grandest, most epic record yet.

Brooding orchestral opener As One grows into a thing of frightening intensity, hitting with its heavy drama, along with typical suburban lyrical images of underpasses and barking dogs. Wastelands boasts a magnificent chorus, enticing chord changes, and a familiar swagger toughening up its emotion, all coming together to deliver another big “me and you in this together” Suede anthem. The record’s intriguing interludes add to its cinematic flavour, hinting that some sort of narrative threads throughout it. Yet its atmosphere and sound are more than enough to tie this album together brilliantly.

Chiming guitars and a soft pulse grow while everything melts together nicely on Mistress, while cold, ghostly verses lead into a soaring Bowie-like chorus on Beyond The Outskirts. Where the band’s output of the 90s always centred around the grim and glamour of sleazy city life, The Blue Hour spreads outwards from the suburbs to the outskirts, countryside and coasts of Britain.

With the shadowy, operatic Chalk Circles, bleak synths meet doomy drums, leading straight into the rocking, riff-packed Cold Hands. People still talk about Bernard Butler’s role in the early work and how Suede was never the same again, yet those years are now just a small part of the band’s story. People also underestimate the brilliance of the man who stepped into Butler’s shoes 23 years ago as a teenager, and who has become an increasingly brilliant guitarist in his own right. Make no mistake about it, Richard Oakes delivers brilliantly on The Blue Hour, as do the rest of the band. Hearing them truly firing on all cylinders again is a magical thing.

The instantly captivating Life Is Golden stands as the most anthemic song the group have produced since their reunion, a stunning moment of uplifting melancholy with a soaring chorus that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1996’s hit-packed Coming Up. The sci-fi flavoured Roadkill provides an intriguing Diamond Dogs like segue, but what do these strange interludes mean? The guitars on the fantastic Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You billow from it like thick black smoke, and on Tides, drums thud and thunder with clarity as notes ring out into an electrified atmosphere, before the brief Dead Bird rounds off the intermission dialogue.

The Blue Hour concludes with three humongous epics that define the album’s expansive mood and spacious sound. The solemn, theatrical All The Wild Places brings flowing, swelling strings into its sparse arrangement, while slow-burning wonder The Invisibles initially seemed like an odd choice of the first single, but in retrospect gives a perfect encapsulation of their eighth LP with its beautiful balance of the subtle and the spectacular. As the shadowy Flytipping sprawls out to achieve an ambitious and triumphant closing moment, the picture completes itself very nicely.

Alternating solemn, graceful orchestral sounds with raw, swaggering rock n roll, bursting with terrific guitars, The Blue Hour shows Suede reaching upwards and outwards to create a work of magnificent, epic beauty.