After marking their comeback from an 11-year hiatus with 2013’s perfectly good but unsurprising Bloodsports, Suede were rather more adventurous with 2016’s cinematic Night Thoughts. The Blue Hour, their eighth album, takes that approach a step further. Intended to be listened to as a whole, rather than as 14 discrete songs, there’s even a storyline loosely underpinning it. As concept albums go, it doesn’t have the clearest narrative arc, although piece together the lyrics, snatches of speech and field recordings (one of which features frontman Brett Anderson’s five-year-old son), and a tale of a missing child emerges from the gloom.
Even though his songwriting is more informed by the countryside than seedy urban landscapes now that Anderson has relocated to Somerset, it’s the seamier side of rural life that he zeroes in on, most notably on Flytipping and the jarring, Velvets-indebted Roadkill. Indeed, his lyrical preoccupations remain pleasingly constant: Wastelands and Beyond the Outskirts could have taken their names from a rudimentary Random Suede Song Title Generator. Musically, the use of a choir and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra give a lushness to the arrangements, and underline how far they’ve travelled since their commercial peak in the 1990s. Dark and absorbing, The Blue Hour is never dull, although in an age of playlist-friendly immediacy it’s hard to imagine its appeal stretching far beyond already committed fans.Continue reading...
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