Music fans will tell you how long four years feels when waiting for their favourite band to release a new album. Since 2018 when Suede released The Blue Hour, their only offering until now has been a recording of their 1993 show at the Brixton Academy. However, they are now rejuvenated with their new release, Autofiction.
The vexation felt by lead singer Brett Anderson is shockingly conveyed as soon as the first song, She Still Leads Me On, is underway. The driving rhythm and frantic power chords do little to suggest a record that will turn back the clock on Suede’s history. As the song builds, the listener would be forgiven for wondering what is in store.
The answer lies in Anderson’s self-assessment: ‘Autofiction is our punk record’. Pent-up frustrations burst onto the scene as the lead vocalist sings about previously untold struggles. The lyrics dive into themes that have never before been explored by the band. In the opening track, Anderson talks about his late mother, the bottled-up emotion spilling out as the song progresses. The slightly untidy, demo-esque production quality of some songs also helps to cement the punkiness that the band intimate throughout the album. The recordings are rough around the edges, leaving in feedback and count-ins.
However, the band’s sound remains recognisable, mainly through the arpeggiated guitar lines that roll through each tune and of course through Anderson’s iconic vocals. The guitar tones still bear that britpop twang, albeit now undermined by the enraged snarl of overdrive in the rhythm section.
It must be said that the record fails to provide us with a heap of variety where musicality is concerned, except maybe during Drive Myself Home, which marks the halfway point and seems to pause the action as the music is tempered to a gentler speed. The beauty and subtlety of the piano counteracts the rest of the album’s sound in a highly effective way. However, this does not make up for the lack of diversity in the other tracks which seem relatively monotonous when focusing solely on the music and disregarding the lyrical content.
Despite the repetitive feel of the songs, this album should still be praised as a success. For a band like Suede to release any album following their inconsistent history is a victory for fans, but that is not the only reason. While still keeping a sense of classic Suede, they have cranked up the anger to the max with a thrilling punk sound, not to mention the introduction of new and powerful lyrical subjects.