Suede: Night Thoughts
Already through its name – and of course through the accompanying film by Roger Sargent that premiered at Suede's Roundhouse gigs in November – Night Thoughts is up-front about the fact that it's a dark album. But while the thoughts are those of regret and anxiety, for Suede they are much more: they are also strikes of genius, a never-ending stream of creativity, able to harness more emotion into one album than many bands have into whole careers.
Night Thoughts provides a musical commentary on the fears and problems that come with aging: the changing family dynamics, relationships breaking down, mistakes and regrets piling up, loss and worry - and ultimately, never feeling quite ready for these changes.
That being said, for an album that is built on fears and neuroses, Night Thoughts is surprisingly majestic and powerful. The first song, 'When You Are Young', sets the atmosphere - both ominous as well as thrilling and exciting. The first songs are still full of life and ambition; even 'Outsiders', in its pain of not belonging, is filled with naivety and youthful hope. 'No Tomorrow' features a distressing video on the topic of mental illness and suicide, yet its energy makes it one of the most upbeat tracks on the album.
The mood changes quite dramatically with 'Pale Snow', taking the album in a much darker direction. As the first song on the album to seem truly haunting like the night thoughts, it is also one of its most interesting tracks, functioning almost as an interlude paving the way for the more downbeat part of the album. Indeed, the following tracks seem to depict situations where relationships and communication have already broken down. Their presentation is still poetic (quite literally so in 'What I'm Trying To Tell You') rather than desperate, leaving the listener feeling at least somewhat positive. This illusion is shattered with the immense sadness of 'Tightrope', which has you holding your breath expecting Anderson's voice to break simply because of how loaded with emotion the song is.
'Tightrope' appears to give a good insight into the album as a whole, too: thematically disturbing and depressing, Night Thoughts is a record that demands the listener to really listen. It works as the perfect follow-up to its predecessor Bloodsports (2013), which served to remind both the band and the audiences that Suede exist and can still write great music.
The bolder and more vulnerable Night Thoughts is no reminder – it is a new start. While the soundworld in general is familiar, there are only a couple of proper “Suede anthems” on the whole album. The record shows off guitarist Oakes' and keyboardist Codling's talent better than their previous work, but there are fewer la-la-la's, fewer stretched ssss-sounds. It is not written for fans or critics, there is no bowing down to anyone. 'Like Kids' is perhaps the one song on the album that does sound like it could be from one of Suede's older works and provides a necessary change of pace: it doesn't feel out of place, but adds a new aspect to the piece.
And that's what Night Thoughts ultimately is: a single piece of music, with interconnected storylines and themes across the album. It evolves from the ominous, but exciting 'When You Are Young' to the sorrowful 'When You Were Young'; if the album was a graph, it would grimly demonstrate how the story progresses. However, the final song on the album, 'The Fur & The Feathers', provides an intriguing glimpse of hope through its majestic grandiosity - the vigour and excitement are still there. Night Thoughts was hailed as Suede's best album already before its official release, but that's a dangerous statement to make: if this was the case, what would happen to the thrill of the chase?