The resurgent masters of dramatic, crepuscular art rock face their demons on epic album eight.
They've made album eight in Willesden, using (they claim) the only vintage desk in London not used on The Dark Side Of The Moon. Anderson’s men open up about gateway songs, terror and sounding like themselves..
“We wanted the album to sound really wintry,” says Suede’s Brett Anderson, sat with his bandmates in the mixing suite of Willesden’s Assault & Battery Studios, in April. “There was a picture we kept referring to – a cat walking down this snowy avenue of trees. Every song had to look as though it could fit into that world.” The creation of The Blue Hour – Suede’s eighth album in total, and their third since returning in 2010 – began in May 2016, when Anderson, guitarist Richard Oakes and keyboardist Neil Codling wrote Mistress, a Roxy-eque ambient vignette depicting a child realising his father is having an affair. With the way forward revealed, they spent 18 months composing the rest before recording it in six weeks from September to October 2017, working in Assault & Battery’s live room. A six-song preview reveals a group in strapping creative health. Album opener As One is the epic, anthropomorphic entry to the underworld; Beyond The Outskirts is elegiac, big-riffing classic Suede; Life Is Golden a joyous pop moment, and Flytipping, with its epic Bowiesque denouement, recalls Dog Man Star-era gem The Living Dead. Anderson admits his recent memoir Coal Black Mornings informed The Blue Hour. “The book stirred up memories of my childhood,” he says. “A lot of it is about the terrors of childhood, and the child’s perspective is me. Also, geographically it’s set in a very specific place – a scruffy, unpleasant rural setting, of B-roads, fly-tipping, roadkill and concrete paths, discarded white goods by the side of the road… it’s not an album about [Suede hometown] Haywards Heath though.” The Blue Hour itself, meanwhile, references the time at dawn and dusk when blue predominates in the spectrum. “It’s twilight,” says Anderson. “I had this idea that the child is lost and people are looking for it, as the night is closing in.” This time, Suede’s long-term producer Ed Buller (now a film composer based in California) has been replaced by Alan Moulder, of whom bassist Mat Osman says, “he’s been on our radar forever.” “I wish I could give you some dirt – arguments and fighting,” Moulder tells MOJO. “But it was really good fun.” “These days, you just have to let the band live and breathe,” reasons Oakes. “The moment you try and tell people what to play it falls apart and it loses its identity.” And what do they think of the fact that next year marks 30 years of Suede? “It’s great, but you just don’t think about it,” says Osman. “I couldn’t do any of it if we weren’t still making great records we’re proud of.”
“A LOT OF IT’S ABOUT THE TERRORS OF CHILDHOOD.”
Songs sung blue: (main, from left) Suede’s Richard Oakes, Neil Codling and Brett Anderson with producer Alan Moulder; (above) the new album’s visual cue.