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So-so set from Brett fails to rival Suede
on 25 May 2007
I really wanted to like this album. Suede stuck out of the Britpop crowd as obviously as early Roxy Music outclassed the glam majority. But having made two perfect albums, the transitional Coming Up saw them begin to slip sadly into the mediocrity of Head Music and A New Morning.
Frontman Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler had always formed a troubled partnership, but the best of their songs had expressed a wounded romanticism which has seldom since been equalled. On his own, though, Anderson struggled to find a sufficiently dramatic setting for his shabby vignettes of urban life. What had been Wildean romance dwindled into drabness,
Much was expected of the Anderson/Butler partnership when it was briefly reunited for Here Come the Tears in 2005, but the album failed to make much of an impression. Perhaps the magic had leaked away, or perhaps it was the times that had moved on: in any case, Anderson has decided to collaborate with Norwegian writer/producer Fred Ball for this solo outing.
Going for the Scott Walker/Nico aesthetic of strings and muddy piano, these eleven tracks nevertheless sound oddly perfunctory. The arrangements don't do enough to lift the often fragile melodies and there's little sense of sonic variation. The familiar lyrical landscape of city streets, dirty love and desperate addiction is all still there, but although he's lying in the gutter, there's no sense that Anderson is still looking at the stars.
Lead-off single Love Is Dead doesn't so much brood as whinge. Self-pity is a major keynote on this album, but it's not the kind of suffering that ennobles or brings wisdom in its wake. Dust And Rain ("I am the needle and you are the vein") is the kind of drug/dependency song Placebo handle with far more richness and compassion, and The Infinite Kiss is a depressing dirge with little emotional light and shade.
Frustratingly, there are moments when we get a glimpse of the poignancy and wistful drama of which Anderson was once capable. The solo-penned Scorpio Rising drapes delicate guitar over the melody like a shawl, and The More We Possess the Less We Own Of Ourselves is a kind of oom-pa-pa Viennese waltz, an intriguing counterpoint for a song about death-by-consumerism.
An album this patchy would be excusable as a debut from some bright young hope, but coming from an artist of Anderson's experience, it looks like a sad case of creative drought.