Suede is back and pinch me, Bloodsports sounds like the followup to Coming Up. Erased are the memories of Head Music (admittedly, not too bad) and A New Morning (very bad). Bloodsports proves that Suede are back and ready to prove that their legacy is worthwhile.
When we learned that Suede had gone back into the studio to work on new material, most of us collectively sighed. Suede hadn’t been remembered well before their 2003 hiatus. Brett Anderson’s solo career received lukewarm reviews. My fellow Suede fans and I worried about whether or not our beloved band still had the ability to produce a good record. I must admit I’m embarrassed that I ever doubted them because Bloodsports is an absolutely brilliant piece of music. Brett told us that we would get something combining the best elements of Dog Man Star and Coming Up. Originally, I shrugged off that comment and now Brett has made good on his promise.
Bloodsports kicks off with the lead single “Barriers.” It is not the album’s strongest track and is followed by the rocking “Snowblind.” Here we have the old Suede back – a heavy guitar riff courtesy of Richard Oakes, the seductive vocals and “ooo’s” courtesy of Brett. The lyrics are classic Suede but not a parody. The band has said that Bloodsports is an album about a relationship and its various stages. “Snowblind” gives us gritty lines like “We find our keys on the kitchen table/ And forget what’s done.” This is Suede on top form.
Next we’ve got Bloodsports’ second single, “It Starts and Ends With You.” Confession time: I wasn’t too fond of “Barriers” the first time I heard it. When I heard “It Starts and Ends With You,” I put it on a loop and danced around my apartment like a giddy teenager. This is what a guitar pop song should be. After just one listen, you’ll be singing along to the chorus. Next up is “Sabotage,” already a veteran of the band’s live sets. It’s a darker, sexier number calling to mind the Dog Man Star days. I’m giving props to Richard Oakes here – he owns his guitar lines and while it’s obvious that as a teenager he was heavily influenced by original Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, Richard has developed a style all his own. Brett’s vocals suit the song perfectly and paint a picture of star-crossed lovers.
“For the Strangers” made its debut last summer when Suede toured the festival circuit. It was immediately embraced by fans. The final studio version is a dreamy almost-ballad featuring more of those classically Suede lyrics: “Look like promises on a train when you delivered yourself to him.” “Hit Me” brings us back to the pop perfection found on Coming Up. It would be right at home between “Beautiful Ones” and “Trash.” Brett employs use of his falsetto and his trademark “la la la’s.” Again, it’s a song that doesn’t sound like any band other than Suede.
It wouldn’t be a Suede record without a series of ballads. “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” is 2013’s answer to “To The Birds.” This is the album’s sweeping, ethereal ballad. “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” is followed by the essential Suede piano ballad “What Are You Not Telling Me.” Bloodsports makes sure to chronicle every moment in the average relationship – from the early excitement and infatuation to the doubts. This is the basis of “What Are You Not Telling Me” – “Did I give away control too soon? …The mysteries of love are not for us.” This is Bloodsports’ tearjerker. It’s followed by “Always,” another ballad in which Brett pledges his allegiance to a lover. Another nod to Dog Man Star, Richard Oakes’ guitar is reminiscent of that in “the Asphalt World.” Also like “the Asphalt World,” “Always” builds upon itself taking the listener on a sonic journey.
Bloodsports closes with “Faultlines.” The album clocks in at just under 40 minutes and the listener is left entirely satisfied. Suede is back and on top form. I can’t believe that I had ever lost faith in my boys. Bloodsports is the older, wiser cousin to the great albums in Suede’s back catalog. They set out to let us all know that they can still write a damn good song and have certainly succeeded. Hello again, Suede. It’s so wonderful to have you back.