Sunday, 11 September 2011

REVIEW: Brett Anderson - 'Black Rainbows'

'Black Rainbows' is the fourth solo album from Suede's Brett Anderson and follows his old band's successful reunion. There's nothing here quite as anthemic as 'Trash' or 'The Beautiful Ones' but instead these songs reflect a beauty that is more subtly engaging. Definitely a perfect soundtrack for those long cold Autumn nights that are about to come. It seems that the time spent back with his old band has rejuvenated Anderson's songwriting, which shines with an alluring confidence. Unlike his previous solo work 'Black Rainbows' sees him return to a full band sound, so it may be inevitable that some of this is going to sound like Suede. The lyrical imagery is here too: the "ashtray eyes", "antiseptic skies" and "carpet burns". But rather than attempting to revive former glories this album sounds like the work of a man using his honed skills and looking forward to new possibilities.

Opener 'Unsung' is a wonderful introduction to the record, sounding like a colourful musical sunrise, while the single 'Brittle Heart' is a stunning yet gorgeously subtle pull on the heartstrings that features a classic Anderson chorus and a simple but effective guitar solo. 'Crash About To Happen' may sound a bit like New Order covering Phil Spector but Brett's unmistakeable vocal and way with melody ensure the track has his character stamped all over it. Definitely another highlight. 'I Count The Times' is rather downbeat and the vocal melody in the verse is reminiscent of Suede classic 'New Generation'. However it stands out as the weakest track on the album, especially when sandwiched in between two great songs, the latter of which is 'The Exiles'. This track is a darkly satisfying slab of glam dramatics, with powerful guitars, pounding drums and a seedy swagger. It would without a doubt have been a massive hit if it was released around 1999.

Elsewhere, 'This Must Be Where It Ends' has a dark, sad windswept feel to it while 'Actors' has a darker feel, all driving rhythms and stabbing guitars along with the smart dangerous shimmer of the chorus. 'In The House' again recalls New Order with its bassline and breezy yet sad melody, while 'Thin Men Dancing' has Smiths-esque drama sewn into an Aladdin Sane-esque stomp and is one of the album's most infectious songs. The closing 'Possession' begins calmly and almost ambiently before Anderson's soaring vocal rings out against a backdrop of reverb-soaked percussion and gentle acoustic guitars. The song builds up to a short but dramatically beautiful climax before ending peacefully, and wouldn't have sounded out of place on 'Coming Up'.

The album runs pleasingly from start to end and is kept perfectly brief at just over half an hour, showing that although Brett is great at writing the huge epics he can also use this style to great effect in shorter and more subtle songs. With Suede reformed and confirmed to be recording new material, 'Black Rainbows' could easily be seen as some sort of warm up, but this is certainly no substandard gap-filling solo project. In fact many of these songs would work well as new Suede songs and would have made great additions to their comeback album. 7.8/10

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