Best albums of 2022: #5 Suede “Autofiction”

London-based quintet, Suede, has made a number of appearances on this blog’s pages already. I’ve already written about how I picked up on them late but once I finally did, it was true love. I’ve touched on how phenomenal their b-sides were in their early days, tackled one of their covers, and even spoken of their untimely disbanding in the early part of the 2000s. But what I haven’t really gotten to thus far is their post-reunion material.

Seven years after their breakup in 2003, the lineup, as it was upon dissolution, re-formed for what was being called a one-off set as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust shows at Royal Albert Hall. Frontman Brett Anderson had such a blast that more shows followed… and then more… and then tours followed by festival circuits. Their first reunion album, “Bloodsports”, appeared in 2013 and picked right up where they should have left off ten years earlier. Two more albums were released in 2016 and 2018, orchestral and dramatic and notable for lacking what one might call ‘radio-friendly singles’.

All of those last three albums have been enjoyed by this particular fan and have also been critically lauded all around. I think with “Autofiction”, though, their 9th studio album and 4th since reforming, Brett Anderson and crew have created their best piece of work since their biggest album, 1996’s “Coming up”. This new one was originally meant to be recorded live, in front of rabid audiences, to capture their own particular live performance energy. Of course, these plans were scuttled due to the pandemic and they chose instead to keep production light, recording with additional musicians, rather than additional layers. Anderson has called this the band’s ‘punk album’ and it certainly has more energy and less bells and whistles.

“Autofiction” sounds like a Suede album from yesteryear but with the maturity and experience of today. It is dramatic and dirty and romantic. It is eleven fantastic tracks that bare their soul to the listener more and more with each listen. It is a complete album and it should be listened to as such, but if you’re lacking the time, you can start with these three tracks that I’ve picked out for you.

“It’s always the quiet ones“: “Oh they stay in shadows, all the heart breakers. Oh they stay in shadows, all the trouble makers. It’s always the quiet ones.” Isn’t this always the case, though? From the haunting and menacing intro to the feedback screams and uplifting chorus, track nine torments us and warns us not to take anything for granted. And then it screams away into the night.

“What am I without you”: The finale track on the album is the six minute exercise in introspection and self-appraisal. Anderson is recognizing his lot as an entertainer and the rest of the band backs him up with their guns a-blazing. To the question he asks himself over and over – “What am I without you?” – you can almost see him shrinking under the heat of the spotlight. The answer can only be: “I’m nothing without you, so let love burn.”

“She still leads me on”: “But I loved her with my last breath. And I loved her with a love that was strong as death. And I loved her when she was unkind. And I loved her, I loved her, a dangerous mind.” The album’s first track and first single is Anderson’s musings on the death of his mother some thirty-plus years ago. It is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful and passionate. And man does it rock!

We’ll be back in a couple days with album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

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