When a legendary band reforms, it's often a case of just touring the old hits. Coming back with new material can carry the risk of tainting a legacy, but in Suede's case the release of a brand new studio LP gives them the chance to redeem themselves after the damp squib of 2002's disappointing 'A New Morning'.
From the opening headrush of 'Barriers', it's clear that the fire is burning bright once again. Its epic melodrama and statements of undying love provide a superb start to a record that sounds like it could have been made at any point in the mid 90's. And for Britpop nostalgists like myself it's worth buying for that reason alone.
But what we don't get is a group simply relying on a sound similar to that of their best work to try and win back what they once had. Sometimes a band can end up making a poor record and mistakenly believe that it's good because it's in the same style as their most celebrated work. The Oasis album 'Heathen Chemistry' is a prime example. But thankfully Suede haven't fallen into that trap. These songs just remind the listener of the old stuff because it's packed with just as much heart, guts and epic bursts of emotion. It's the sound of a group who have somehow rediscovered the magic. Brett Anderson's vocals are positively awe-inspiring, and it's a fine way to return.
It's been a while since Suede came up with some real anthems, but from the third track, we get a four song run of classics that can all proudly stand alongside their best moments. 'It Starts And Ends With You' is an ecstatic Bowie-esque pop masterpiece bursting with thrilling hooks and a skyscraping chorus, while 'Sabotage' ventures into darker territory, evoking an almost Joy Division-like atmosphere and steeped in dark, romantic drama and lyrical melancholy: "I smile as the rain cuts through me, so cold in this London suburb". The grinding bassline and tortured guitars build up an intensity, gradually rising into an spectacular climax that comes complete with a stunning stadium-sized solo.
'For The Strangers' produces one of many fine choruses, all underlined with magnificent soaring guitar lines. Upon hearing this particular track for the first time, I couldn't help but smile. It was like the last 17 years never happened. The massively infectious 'Hit Me' delivers electrifying glam riffs, a simple and hugely addictive chorus and an epic "la la la la la" refrain will no doubt have audiences punching the air and singing at the top of their lungs.
Elsewhere, 'Sometimes I Feel I Float Away' is a nice piece of hazy psychedelia, while the powerfully haunting 'Always Here' and sombre closer 'Faultlines' are two growers, both characteristic of the LP's slower, less instant second half.
The only gripes I have with this record is its lack of a dirty, strutting rock and roll moment that would have given 'Bloodsports' more variety, and certainly more of a kick, something that its downbeat second half could do with. And there are two tracks that might have sounded better if they weren't in such strong company. The swaggering verse of 'Snowblind' promises huge things, but its chorus doesn't quite hit the mark, while the ghostly 'What Are You Not Telling Me' is a slightly unconvincing stab at 'Dog Man Star'-esque desolation. But neither are bad songs, and their flaws are only minor imperfections on an otherwise brilliant album.
Eight great tracks out of ten doesn't leave much to complain about. They sound like they've reignited that spark and rediscovered what they once thought was lost forever. Overall it's not quite up there with the truly perfect 'Coming Up', but its best moments provide us with something we thought we'd never hear again: Suede producing some new classics and proving that their glories aren't all in the past. 4 out of 5