Bloodsports was an important album for Suede: It was a familiar record, one that played to their strengths and expanded upon them, creating a triumphant and well-received comeback after a seven year hiatus. Now that they’re well and truly back into the swing of things, the time to try something new has come. As such, this lead to the creation of Night Thoughts; their most atmospheric and grandiose record to date.
While they haven’t ditched their Britpop roots in their entirety, Night Thoughts finds its inspirations and defining traits elsewhere. The pre-release track Outsiders represents one half of the album’s new scope perfectly, with its guitars and vocals carrying a noticeable echo that gives them a shimmering atmosphere, something different from the likes of Bloodsports’ direct tracks and feels substantial and pristine. Vocalist Brett Anderson sounds as comfortable as ever alongside the arrangement, especially as the ambience reaches its peak with the distant, shining backing vocals responding to his direct leading vocal track.
On the other side of the coin, however, lie the tracks that make full use of Suede’s newest addition for Night Thoughts; the inclusion of a full string section. Pale Snow makes particularly solid use of this, with its mixture of the piercing whistle of the strings intertwining with the strum of the guitar and the lilt in Anderson’s vocals perfectly, carrying the song with no need for a beat. When You Were Young mixes a full rock arrangement with the string section, largely lacking vocal involvement from Anderson but mixing the two separate styles together for a stellar track, enhanced by the sudden cut to Anderson’s vocals near the song’s end, alongside the eerie mood and the accompanying piano.
In terms of atmosphere, the album is an astounding success; both the grandiose ballads and the rock tracks follow styles covered by Suede before, but the distant atmosphere given by the reverb and the varying moods of the strings add a unique touch to the album that makes it stand out. As an album intended to accompany a film, it should almost feel like a half of a package; something that doesn’t quite stand on its own two feet. In practice, however, Night Thoughts more than manages to carry itself based solely on its own merits. Anything that Suede have to throw at us alongside it is the icing on top of the cake.