The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Suede
Autofiction Amah-Rose Abrams , September 15th, 2022 08:07

The band's ninth album finds them fully ensconced in their own world, still throwing out absolute goth bangers

Suede have often spoken of a Suedeworld, a sonic zone built by the band that speaks of an otherworldly ordinariness, a portal out of the grim everyday that only they can conjure into being. A physical manifestation of this might be Mark Leckey’s O’ Magic Power of Bleakness (2019), a life size recreation of the underside of the M53: a flyover, a place charged with a titillating nowhere-otherness, the visualisation of a liminal space, one of fundamental unbelonging.

This facet of modern being sends critics running for descriptors, as it has no platform, place, lexicon or class; no slang. It’s a voiceless, emotional, interior state of otherness that gets twinned with the swagger of celebrity glamour and the menace of cabaret. Somewhere in all that is Suede: hard but soft, angry but gentle, grand but gritty, linguistically delicious and almost painfully emotionally honest.

If Suede’s last album, The Blue Hour was the final part of a trilogy where Suede defined ‘Suedeworld’, then this new record, Autofiction, sees them standing firmly in it, facing defiantly outwards. The album has everything you expect from Suede: Brett Anderson’s astonishing voice, those pulsing baselines, the violins, the rangy impossible guitars, and the powerful drums. But it’s also a more mainstream record than they have made in years. Without losing what is wonderfully difficult about their music, they are bringing us what they are best at and offering something for people new to the band.

There is less of the lexicon we have come to associate with Anderson’s writing. There is petrol but there are no pylons. The messages in the eleven songs on this record are direct and confronting, almost aggressive.

It opens with ‘She Still Leads Me On’, an ode to Anderson’s late mother. It sounds upbeat, strong and optimistic, almost joyous, and is followed by ‘Personality Disorder’, an angsty, questing song which after its exuberant opener sets the tone of the album.

Autofiction was recorded in the inner-city suburbia of Crouch End, at the Kink’s Konk studio, where Suede returned to working with their long-time producer Ed Buller in a desire to tap into the feel of their early records.

‘That Boy on a Stage’ gives us a taste of the early Suede b-sides that their hardcore fans know and love, evoking the legendary stomper ‘Killing of a Flashboy’ and the later tracks ‘Money’ and ‘Young Men’. It’s great to hear this side of Suede’s body of work get album status. ‘That Boy...’ sits alongside the strange and despairing vignette ‘Drive Myself Home’ which calls to mind the dreamy early flipsides to ‘So Young’ and ‘Metal Mickey’, ‘High Rising’ and ‘Where the Pigs Don’t Fly’ had they been blessed with Neil Codling’s string arrangements.

Suede’s live shows explode when they play one of their self-proclaimed bangers: ‘The Drowners’, ‘We are The Pigs’, ‘She’, ‘Metal Mickey’, ‘Cold Hands’, ‘Outsiders’ or ‘Can’t Get Enough’ to name a few. There are certainly a few more on Autofiction to join that line-up.

To rehearse the record Suede reportedly decamped to Kings Cross in lockdown to tap into the live, unstable nature of this record. You can hear why on the wildly untamed ‘Black Ice’ and utter goth banger ‘Shadow Self’. With Richard Oakes’ post-punk infused guitars and Simon Gilbert’s free flowing drums, these are songs you can really throw yourself around to.

‘What Am I Without You?’ Is Anderson’s tribute to the fans that have journeyed with the band from their reunion in 2010 through the three previous records up to this one. While this track is not the strongest on the album it was received with raptures at the bands recent undercover micro-show at the Moth Club in London.

‘It’s Always the Quiet Ones’ is and the albums’ closer ‘Turn Off Your Brain and Yell’ are where we hear most clearly what is – according to the band – the next episode for Suede. This, their ninth album, is definitely a new chapter for the group, one that sees them shake off the past and own their space in a way they never have before.