Suede - 'Night Thoughts' a review

‘Night Thoughts’ is Suede’s 7th album, and the second since getting back together, and follows previous album ‘Bloodsports’ by two years. Recorded mainly in Brussels and also in London and featuring a full string section, the album is very cinematic in its approach, so much so that the album is accompanied by a full length feature film that runs alongside the songs.

The orchestra leads the album in, introducing the filmic ‘When You Are Young’. There’s no rosy sentimentality here, Suede always present things a little gritty, touched with regret and dirt. ‘Outsiders’ follows, a much more guitar lead typical Suede anthem, very redolent of classic 2nd era Suede, as is ‘No Tomorrow’, and the albums fist pumping defiant pose is struck. And it works. The songs are far more immediate than the previous (very good) album, it’s great to hear a re-formed band creating as vitally as their initial run was. If the pace does slow down through ‘Pale Snow’ (spacey synths and moody atmospherics) and ‘I Don’t Know How To Reach You’ (more measured in pace, but still taut and vital) then the quality doesn’t. ‘What I’m Trying To tell You’ was first presented last year at the NME’s awards show, and it was a glorious atypical Suede cruncher, an instant classic. Here the pace and feel is more metronomic, more mechanical. Still, that’s always been a Suede ploy, and the chorus cannot be dulled, the songs finds a place as a more polished finished article and is thankfully, an album highlight.

‘Tightrope’ crawls in on broken guitar, sparse keyboards and smooth bass, the voice completing the songs first cycle before the drums finish the build. This could be even be first album era Suede, and seven songs in and I still don’t think I’ve heard the word gasoline in the lyrics yet, though we have had cellophane and cars, and chemicals are on their way.  The seamless link into ‘Learning To Be’ passes in a blink, as does the soft song, before ‘Like Kids’ caresses your ears with a gentle childlike lalala intro, a song lyrically and musically not such a distant relative of ‘Trash’, no bad thing, and it’s fresh enough to avoid paying homage to its predecessor, in fact it’s another highlight on this lean, no waste, mean album. Some more kiddie-choral nahnahnah’s see the track out and into ‘I Can’t Give Her What She Wants’. It’s an eerie love song, with a murderous undercurrent of resigned defeat. The albums first track is then resurrected as ‘When You Were Young’, a far more reflective mood piece that the earlier song, dialogue samples, and thunderous orchestra carrying the album towards its crescendo. Which arrives in the form of closer ‘The Fur And The Feathers’. If this sounds like a pub name, then it could well be, as the main hook also namechecks the fox and the geese! It summarises the albums central themes, the first flush of youthful romance and the emptiness when things don’t work out. Another main lyrical hook, ‘It’s the thrill of the chase’ could well have been this songs title. It’s grandiose and epic, vital and real.

’Bloodsports’ may well have shown us that there was life in Suede as an ongoing creative unit, and now ‘Night Thoughts’ completely justifies the band decision to effectively have a second career. If you love ‘Suede’ and ‘Coming Up’ especially and found ‘Bloodsports’ promising or pleasing then you’ll love this too. It’s a first meets third via the sixth. And it’s great.


Tindersticks - 'The Waiting Room' a review.

With their roots in Nottingham (as Asphalt Ribbons) before locating to London and becoming Tindersticks, this is a group that feels like it’s the independent music scenes best kept secret of the last 25 years. They don’t have a typically indie sound, there’s a lot more ‘art’ to Tindersticks, as evidenced by the fact that apart from ten studio albums they’ve also sound tracked numerous movies, art installations and exhibitions. They have a boozy back alley underground sound, with Stuart Staples distinctive vocal either leaving you in the ‘one of the great singers’ or ‘the man can’t sing’ camp, very rarely taking the middle ground. If you can’t make your mind up, then listen to Stuart sing ‘Hushabye Mountain’, the Sherman brothers ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ standard that was recorded for Tindersticks side project ‘Songs For The Young At Heart’ nearly ten years ago. Oh yes the man can sing.

So what then of this, Tindersticks official 10th studio album? Opener ‘Follow Me’ has a glorious cinematic feel (the songs melody is from Brando’s 1960’s version of ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’ and the album is accompanied by a film project, a short film for each of the albums tracks’). It’s a countryside instrumental betraying its recording in the bands studio in Staples current home of Limousin in France. It was the last song recorded for the album, recorded as a scene setter before the heavily treated vocals of ‘Second Chance Man’ drop you straight into the action, it’s an arty sub jazz recording, singular in pace but very affecting all the same. ‘Were We Once Lovers?’ is driven by its flowing bassline, and provided a clear link to the previous Tindersticks albums, intertwining art, indie and soul elements sublimely.

‘Help Youself’ blasts off with a southern soul horn fix (there is immaculate brass throughout this album). It’s a song that was spontaneously written and recorded very quickly, it sits on a basic rhythm and feature an effortless and perfect vocal. ‘Hey Lucinda’ was first put together in 2009 and features Lhasa de Sela on vocals, who sadly passed away from cancer soon after that recording, someone that band has admired and worked with previously. Finishing the song off for this album and they’ve truly done her justice. Centrepiece, ‘Fear Of Emptiness’ is another instrumental, and bookends the two half’s of the album sweetly. ‘How He Entered’ is a spoken word/instrumental piece that harks back to early Tindersticks glories. Proper spoken word songs can be cheesy, but this is anything but, it sounds like its spoken out of choice not through a lack of ideas, and hints of loneliness, sudden arrival and departure and renders the spoken vocal as a proper song. It’s cool and catchy.

Title track ‘The Waiting Room’ also features a previously used Tindersticks trick, vocal gliding over a sparse solo Hammond (augmented only by fleeting minimal percussion), the vocal fragile and vulnerable.  It’s downbeat and miserable but this is a main reason that so many people love Tindersticks. If music was to only soundtrack our highs, then music would not be very interesting. ‘Planting Holes’ is a piano and paella pan instrumental, no kidding. The opening is the recorded sound of rain falling onto paella pans, and the subtle piano complements this nature enhanced sound perfectly. ‘We are Dreamers!’ features Jehnny Beth of Savages. It’s a moody, rhythmic, voodoo enhanced jazz shuffle. It’s wonderfully Tindersticks even if the band in its youth may not have been ready to do this, there is a line that goes right back through their recording career running through this song. That’s the beauty of a band evolving slowly throughout the years, allowed to develop their art without the pressure of supplying a never ending stream of hits, and ultimately this is where the music business needs to get back to if the buying public are to remain engaged by the album as an art form. It’s why we should value bands like Tindersticks.

The album finishes with ‘Like Only Lovers Can’ and sounds as sweet as the title suggests. Lyrically though and questions are still being asked, no resolutions in life or love are offered. It’s another side that the band are so masterful at, the lilting sweet soul that you’d never think could be offered by the same band as their deeper darker moments. And that’s it. The album feels brief, not lightweight, but not giving us enough. It’s a mighty fine latter day Tindersticks album. The band have only ever had one top twenty LP in the UK charts (1995’s second album reached no.13) and those heady chart days are gone. You could however look beyond that and if you’ve never done so before, investigate Tindersticks through this record. It’s a beaut. 


Dead Wood (Sweden) - Guided By Wolves

A while back, possibly on facebook rather than here, I posted about an album I bought whilst on holiday in Whitby by James Auger and the Natives called 'Story of a Dreamer'. James, a north east native has since moved to Sweden, got married and started a family and has now released a single/EP called 'Guided By Wolves' as his one man project, Dead Wood. There is a 7" release which being limited to twenty copies has all sold out now. But the tracks are available from Bandcamp or Spotify. There is also a nice video for the splendid track 'Send Me A Sign'. Fine folk rock with spot on pop sensibilities. Check it out......

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Everybodys Talkin' about Bowie - re-post of TDWS 2012 Podcast

About 3 and a half years ago I posted a podcast featuring my favourite Bowie songs. Six months later and he was back, with new music. I've had a couple of requests to re-post the recording so here it is. There'd be at least one extra or different song on there now, namely 'Blackstar'. This is the text I posted back on the 12th of July of 2012....

Everyone’s Talking About Bowie…..or at least it’s felt like it recently, probably because of the Ziggy 40th anniversary but also because of the general greatness of the man and his music. A word of warning, this podcast is about a century long (1hr 45m anyway) and I talk far too much in it, but it's about David Bowie, what’d you expect? These are (possibly) my favourite Bowie songs, I’m not saying they are ‘the’ best, everyone should make up their own mind, but these are the ones that keep dragging me back or keep me up late when I could really do with going to bed. I’d love to know what you think of them.You can hear the podcast here….

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I'll probably revisit later this year when I can face it. Or do a Vol.2 as someone suggested at the time.

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David Bowie - (1947 - 2016 - 20??)

Words fail me but I'll try anyway. Just 2 days ago I posted a review of 'Blackstar' and referred to it as a career high for David Bowie. No one is immortal but I can't believe that Bowie is now gone. I like a lot of music, of all types. Bowie performed virtually all of those types. He had his low points, his wilderness years and his comeback of the last three years has been particularly joyous and rewarding. Finding out that a large part of this was undertaken whilst he was aware of his own time on the planet coming to an end is difficult to compute. It certainly throws a different light on some of the lyrics to songs recently released. I've read a lot this mourning of people feeling like they've lost a family member. Thoughts are with Bowies actual family, his young child, his wife, all of them. As for his extended family of fans, listen to the music, read some books, watch some films and videos. One of the world’s most inventive and clever and thorough and thoughtful artists has finished creating. His music has sound tracked my life, right now it feels like it is my life. I'll never stop listening to Bowie or being dumbstruck by the stature of the man. There are no more words. Here are David Bowie's final recorded words. 

I know something is very wrong
The pulse returns the prodigal sons
The blackout hearts, the flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes
I can't give everything

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David Bowie - 'Blackstar', the TDWS review.

So, less than two years since ‘The Next Day’ landed as the best Bowie album since 1980 and exactly two years since ‘Where Are We Now’ woke the world up from its Bowie-less slumber, the man’s back, on his 69th birthday, with another new album, and this time it stands up against his very best work.  A bold claim, maybe, but let’s consider it….

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Lead and title track ‘Blackstar’ landed a few weeks back and simply blew me away. A ten-minute epic, effectively two songs knitted into a whole one, it’s mood, instrumentation (drum and bass beats, subculture jazz, near soulful middle section), lyrics, structure and well everything (including the super creepy video) screamed out superior modern alternative pop/rock. The lyrics may be undecipherable, possibly autobiographical, possibly referencing the panic and fear in the world in these times of ISIS seeded terror, but they work a whole with the at times barely structured music that still manages to work as a complete whole. The middle section is as vocally complete as anything Bowie’s ever sung. The below the surface hook ‘I’m a Blackstar’ I’m a Blackstar’ is as triumphant as it is unsettling. This is superior Bowie, it could have sat supremely atop the ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, quite a compliment. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of listening to it.

It’s hard to catch your breath after such an opening. Track two, ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ was underwhelming in it’s demo form as the reverse of late 2013’s genre defying single ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’, here though it’s transformed, full and a different beast. The title comes from a John Ford play and returns to the subject of the terrors of war (in this case WW1), a subject so fruitfully covered by Bowie on ‘The Next Day’. It’s features another great, at times jaw dropping Bowie vocal, especially on the lines ‘man, she punched me like a dude’.

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‘Lazarus’ is from the play that Bowie has collaborated in the production of. It’s a vastly superior piece of alt. rock with jarring guitars, a steady beat, and mournful sax. The play continues the story of Thomas Newton, whom Bowie played on film back in the 70’s, an alien stranded on earth whilst searching for water for his home world. The lyrics also touch on the biblical character Lazarus who lives after dying. A couple of days ago this song also was released with an accompanying creepy video. The overall feeling so far is of music of intense power, as good as ‘The Next Day’ was it didn’t have this presence, this confidence.

Four tracks and over half way in and a radical reworking of ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime’ blasts in. Heavier than the original orchestral jazz recording, the song is perhaps even more unnerving than the original. The story of a relationship flailing amidst illness and infidelity, spiralling into murder. The disjointed drum and bass beats and sombre but pacey music lend an air of panic. This was always a fantastic song, I loved the original, and though quite different this is up there as at least an equal of the original. So far so stunning.

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‘Girl Loves Me’ sounds by title like it’s some mid 80’s Bowie B-side. It is anything but. Phrased in Clockwork Orange viddy speech and oddball London slang, the song could be about an empowered woman or a man’s confidence and ego gone mad bolstered by an empowered woman. It’s a bit obscure, and though it may not touch the heights of the opening four tracks it’s still way more than album filler and again creaks under the weight its own class.  

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‘Dollar Days’ is more softly melodic than all that’s preceded it. Lyrically it seems to be dealing with tough subject matter, maybe the migrant crisis that grips Europe at the moment? There’s a feeling of sacrifice, hardship and regret. Some great sax and percussion work underpin the song, and the urgency present in every song so far on this album remains just a strong here. The slightly understated vocal tends to add to an overall feel and urgency mixed with despair tinged with tiredness and regret.

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The song then segues into ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’. Another lilting melodic song, heralded by a Berlin era sounding harmonica, soft synths and a superb underpinning sax, the song may be about the ties of family even through horrific tests. I’m picturing mourning Islamic fathers grieving for sons turned by radical extremism. But who knows.

And that’s it. Seven songs, a blistering sense of urgency and though the pace might abate towards the end of the album, the quality doesn’t. This is very arguably an album that sits up there with the best in the Bowie canon, and in its title track has what is an absolute career highlight. Buy it.


As a footnote, having just listened to the actual CD. The sound quality is way beyond the disc I burned a couple of days before from a FLAC torrent. Buy the CD or vinyl if you want to hear a masterpiece done justice.

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Indigo - Pins and Needles - Out Now

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I've been going on about Indigo (previously and in my heart known as Juke) for some time, and their first professionally recorded release is out now, the self-titled EP ‘INDIGO’. On digital download or stream, available NOW from iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, Spotify and all major retail digital outlets. A 7" vinyl will be released on the 19th February 2016.
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The 'INDIGO EP' tracklisting is...

1 - Pins & Needles
2 - Upside Down
3 - I’ll Take On The World

Here's the video for Pins & Needles

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