In 2013, David Bowie came out with a new record, and so did Suede. At the time, I thought their comeback was even more impressive than his. Bowie’s The Next Day was a great reevaluation and re-appropriation of what he’d done in the past around the Berlin era, but Suede’s Bloodsports felt like a brand new step in evolution after years of silence. Now, we have Bowie’s Blackstar and Suede’s Night Thoughts, and it feels like the roles are reversed a bit. Where Blackstar felt like one giant leap for Bowie right before he passed on, Night Thoughts feels more like one small step for Suede.
Regardless, Night Thoughts is still an incredible album for a band to release well after its heyday. At this point, they’re not leading the vanguard of Britpop but simply recording music for the sake of it, and it’s very good music at that. It just feels more like a companion piece to Bloodsports rather than a move forward.
On the positive side of things, the first four songs on this record are some of Suede’s best ever. Album opener “When You Are Young” starts with melancholy strings and never loses its orchestral intensity even as more traditional rock instrumentation takes over. It immediately reminded me of Echo & the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain: alternative British rock band gets ahold of an orchestra and records something truly sublime. The same goes for “Pale Snow,” one of the more ambient ballads I’ve ever heard by the band.
“Outsiders” is a jagged rocker I’d stack against “Animal Nitrate” and “She” any day. “No Tomorrow” is a great representation of Suede’s ability to transform glam into something truly melancholy. The oscillations of partying and the tragedies resultant from such a lifestyle have always been a huge part of their musical vocabulary but, now that they’re older, the way they talk about it is more reflective than experiential. The tone is even more blue these days as they sing about being “Like Kids” rather than actually being youths. For what it’s worth, that song is also an all-out rock track.
The main problem with Night Thoughts is that the thoughts are just as apt to make you drowsy after a while as they are to keep you from closing your eyes for a good eight hours. After a pretty strong string of first tracks, the album eventually loses its originality. The songs are meant to all progress one to another seamlessly, but they unfortunately all start to blend together even after those segues. Motifs reveal themselves to not be as special as they seemed at first.
Night Thoughts is still a good album, but it lacks the vitality of its predecessor. Even if this works a bit more as a full statement, the songs on Bloodsports were better. Ultimately, Suede’s greatest strength is writing ballads and bangers, so trying out the same sort of format as Dark Side of the Moon leaves them a little less immediately enjoyable. If you’ve ever loved even one Suede song, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy here. There are just other places to look within their catalog where you may be more satisfied.