To Die By Your Side

It’s all slipping through your hands

October 8th, 2011

Despite being a huge fan of Suede, I’ve never really bothered that much with Brett Anderson‘s solo stuff. Which means I’m not best placed to tell you how ‘Black Rainbows‘ fits into that part of his career. What I can tell you, is that it’s a damn fine record, if you can take it on it’s own merits. Despite being touted as a return to the indie rock sound that he’s best known for, I think that’s a tad misleading. Especially considering he’s spent the last year or so playing gigs with a reformed Suede. To me, that statement suggests this album is riding on the coattails of that momentum and you’d be forgiven for expecting a glammed up bunch of arse whipping songs to come careering out of the speaker. What you get instead are 10 bittersweet indie songs that slowly unfurl to reveal an artist no longer trying neither to match up to nor run away from his past.

On first listen however, I’ll admit the album kind of passed me by in a pretty unremarkable fashion, only lead single ‘Brittle Heart’ really standing out. It’s a song and melody as enticing as anything Suede produced in their early days. For anyone worried about the prospect of Suede recording new material, this song in itself should steady your nerves. What it lacks though is the musical force of that band. Indeed, throughout this album, the music seems to be in the shadow of Brett’s voice. Not wanting to eclipse him, it initially seems muted where it should be soaring and I think it’s that reason why the record seems to take a few listens to truly hit you.

The thing is though, that when it does hit you, everything suddenly seems to click into place. Opener ‘Unsung’ is a gorgeous, melancholic ballad. ‘The Exiles’ teases you with wound up tension. That it never quite climaxes with the explosion you’re expecting shows Brett isn’t interested in merely meeting your expectations. With the brooding energy of ‘Actors’ ups the pace at just the right time, stopping the album from descending into a single paced slog while ‘Thin Men Dancing’ suggests there’s still a bit of the hip shaking swagger of old left in him.

Like I said at the start, I don’t know if his three previous solo records have been any good but with this one, Brett has created a record far better than anything I expected to hear from him. Sure, it’s not as good as the first 3 Suede albums but it’s better than the last 2 and while it may not propel him to the top of the charts, it shows that he still has an uncanny ability to write a heartbreaking melody.┬áDon’t just take my word for it. Have a listen to this two live session tracks from the man himself. The first is the opening track from this record, while the second is a cover of a track from the latest album by The Horrors.

Brett Anderson – unsung (live acoustic session version) : original version available on ‘Black Rainbows

Brett Anderson – oceans burning (The Horrors cover live acoustic session version) : original version by The Horrors available on ‘Skying

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