Album Review: Suede - The Blue Hour

Ever since reforming in 2010, ’90s legends Suede have been on an absolute roll. After re-establishing their place in the alt-rock scene with 2013’s Bloodsports, the band then moved slightly left field for 2016’s Night Thoughts, resulting in their most acclaimed album since 1994’s Dog Man Star. Now Suede are back to complete their comeback triptych with The Blue Hour. During its promotion, the band hinted this record would be an even deeper dive into their experimental side, embracing their typically dark themes with extra indulgence. Given the success this formula brought Night Thoughts, it was an exciting prospect. Few bands have been so consistently great this late in their career. Could Suede make the hat-trick?

The Blue Hoursingles certainly suggested it was possible. The Invisibles, a powerful, baroque track, kicked off the album’s hype. Frontman Brett Anderson’s angsty vocals are channelled through a huge, cascading string section to stunning – if familiarly melodramatic – effect. Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You followed, promising the album would have its share of straightforward, blistering rock tracks too. Life is Golden raised the standard even higher, blending beautiful guitars with beautiful melodies to create an awe-inspiringly beautiful piece of music. It’s easily one of the greatest songs Suede have ever produced. This emotional strength is carried to its conclusion on Flytipping. The final single and album track drowns the listener in an overwhelming wall of guitar noise and passion. In other words, things looked promising, but could Suede maintain this for ten more tracks?

The Blue Hour brings this remarkably brilliant late-career trilogy to its logical conclusion, further expanding their sound into chilling territory and constructing an immersive and convincing world around itself.
– Nathan Brooks

Fortunately, the rest of the album lives up to this standard. Wastelands, in fact, is such a catchy and energetic song I’m surprised it wasn’t a single as well. Beyond The Outskirts is also fantastic, delivering gorgeous melodies with a heavier, glam rock twist in the bridge. Mistress is a truly haunting track, not unlike the heart-breaking She’s Not Dead from their iconic debut. A whirlwind transition later whisks us into Cold Hands, a classic Suede rocker with its driving rhythm and savage guitar riffs. It’s not the most daring of tracks, but it’s undoubtedly effective. The relentless, crescendoing drums on Tides mimic the titular ocean movements with fierce force. All The Wild Places, by contrast, is gentler and almost whimsical, but still grounded in Suede’s usual grit by Anderson’s vocals.

Elsewhere, The Blue Hour is intriguingly experimental. Right out of the gate, As One opens the album unconventionally; its brooding backing vocals evoke Gregorian chants with epic intensity. Chalk Circles takes even more risks, with its dark lullaby verses shrouded in macabre synths and a sinister doom rock chorus that marches menacingly towards the listener. However, it’s the album’s interludes that distinguish The Blue Hour from the rest of Suede’s discography. Roadkill is a disturbing, deathly poem centred around a hypnotic chant and freakishly disorienting production. Dead Bird and a brief, distressing monologue at the end of Wastelands further build the world of The Blue Hour. The record’s atmosphere creates a vivid impression of a cold, uninviting forest suffocated by the twilight. It’s quite unlike anything the band have achieved before.

In essence, Suede are still very much on a roll. The Blue Hour brings this remarkably brilliant late-career trilogy to its logical conclusion, further expanding their sound into chilling territory and constructing an immersive and convincing world around itself. Everyone’s favourite (or least favourite) Suede-isms are all still present, but if those still compel you as they do me, you’ll find much to love here and many welcome new ideas to boot. The Suede renaissance continues to be a welcome one and I’m looking forward to where the band take it next.