Night Thoughts is the seventh studio album by Suede, one of the original Britpop bands from the 1990s. It was released in January this year, and 11 months on it’s my nomination for Album of The Year 2016. Here’s why.
The first thing to note is that Night Thoughts really is an album, not just an arbitrary collection of songs for selective downloading. But please note, this is not to say it’s a full-on concept album. Instead, this is a collection of songs which are thematically linked and designed to be heard together; which is not the same as saying they are all about the same thing.
To emphasise the continuity in the compositions, the band enlisted the help of Roger Sargent (fresh from documenting The Libertines’ return to glory) to make a film as a backdrop for the record. And to cap it all, Suede played two nights at the Roundhouse with Sargent’s film projected behind them, to show how it was all of a piece.
Even hardcore Suede fans were sceptical at first. The project was easily the band’s most ambitious since 1994’s Dog Man Star – it might easily have turned out grossly grandiose. Sales for the Roundhouse gigs were slow until Suede promised to play a greatest hits set afterwards. But now, looking back at the gig that launched the album, I know I was there at the debut of something special.
The sound of singing children signalled the beginning of the roller coaster ride. The string section at the start of ‘When You Are Young’ brought us to a man walking by the sea. Then, as the back-projection faded down, the spotlights picked up Suede on stage, with singer Brett Anderson as a sci-fi version of Hans Christian Andersen (that’s an ‘e’ rather than ‘o’), spinning fairy tales while basking in the attention of the crowd.
As the bouncy ‘Outsiders’ began, Anderson stayed still rather than gyrating across the stage in his usual manner. ‘Like Kids’ launched us into an animated world of sex, drugs and violence, complete with understated references to the band’s own back catalogue. To my mind, referencing their previous work is one of the things that make Suede such an interesting band – they create their own world and rule it.
Suede’s two nights made for two of the most memorable concerts the Roundhouse has ever seen. As an album Night Thoughts highlights how Suede still has ‘The Power’ even as they approach their twilight years as a band.