Suede – Autofiction
Suede have had a long and illustrious career in the UK alternative/indie scene, one of the first groups to be labelled as Britpop just before the explosion of Blur and Oasis. The band won the second Mercury prize for their self-titled debut and had a string of hits in the 90s, including Beautiful Ones, Animal Nitrate and Trash, as well as acclaimed albums Coming Up and Dog Man Star. After a hiatus, the group returned in the 2010s with renewed vigour, delivering some of their strongest work to date in the shape of 2016’s superb Night Thoughts and 2018’s The Blue Hour, proving they still have a point to make and have moved away from their Britpop heyday. Suede return with their ninth studio album Autofiction, another immaculate LP continuing their fine body of work.
The opening track, She Still Leads Me On is already a live staple and an advert for all the group’s members, building to a thundering chorus built around Bret Anderson’s soaring vocals (which show no signs of weakening after 30 years). As far as album openers go, this is a very solid one, and it’s just an appetiser for the quality to come: Personality Disorder has a swagger that recalls Fontaines DC and a punkier edge that the rockers have always had, especially in early works.
15 Again is another rollicking number showing the band’s range and sure to be another to feature prominently in their setlist. The Only Way I Can Love You feels more reminiscent of Night Thoughts, poppier than some of the other tracks while retaining a hardened edge; it’s an apt illustration of Richard Oakes’s guitar prowess, with a slightly softer tone than other parts of the record. So much of Suede’s appeal is built around Anderson that this record feels like an opportunity for Oakes and bassist Mat Osman to stamp their credentials.
That Boy on the Stage is perhaps the best example of Anderson’s vocal versatility, as he shows off his falsetto and depth without breaking a sweat and reiterates his status as one of Britain’s premier frontmen. Black Ice is a shorter, punchier track, continuing the album’s more punk-infused tone and ending almost sounding like a metal band. Shadow Self opens with a thundering riff, slowly building to an eruption at its midpoint as Anderson gradually comes into play.
Autofiction not only continues the group’s incredibly strong last decade but reinvents what their sound can be. They’re clearly not content to rest on their laurels and stick to a particular pattern (as also illustrated by their recent gig at the Moth Club as Crushed Kid, when they debuted this album in full). This doesn’t sound like a group over 30 years into their career and, while many Britpop bands have split or focused more on touring, Suede show their continued relevance to the UK music scene. This is one of the most varied, vital records in an already legendary career. It’s always refreshing to see established bands moving forward, and Suede’s vision is clearly in front of them and certainly not behind.
Photo: Dean Chalkley
Autofiction is released on 16th September 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Suede’s website here.
Watch a live session of She Still Leads Me On here: