Sixth album Bloodsports finds the wheels of that pram sparking on their rims. With guitarist Richard Oakes ploughing into some unabashedly Butler-esque riffs, it sounds almost like it could be a lost record from the band’s electrifying mid-Nineties period. “I don’t think there’s any point in coming back and trying to reinvent the band,” Anderson has said, and this instinct has paid off, reigniting a chemistry that pounds to life in the heart-thudding opener Barriers. You can almost hear the self-described “depressive sex addict” arching his whippet-like spine, exposing his throat and baring his teeth as he keens: “No one will ever love you, the way I loved you/ We jumped over the barriers”. It’s romantic, menacing and carnal. And it sets the tone for a drama and vitality that Suede sustain across the 10 exhilarating tracks.
For a man who often gives great quotes – he’s described the album as being about “infatuation, attraction and the fever of falling headfirst back into the pit” – there are some dodgy lyrics. I’m not sure what he means by “like a cog without a martyr” on lead single It Starts and Ends with You – although I like the seedy, suburban decay of the following line: “Like a hairline crack in a radiator/ Leaking life.” No cracks in the new Suede, though. Bloodsports is bleeding good.
While it occasionally wanders into the same epic territory as Dog Man Star (notably on the dark, squalling storm of Sabotage and the sombre ballad Faultlines) and sometimes echoes the punchy catchiness of Coming Up (the brutishly effective It Starts and Ends With You and the stadium-sized Hit Me), it’s the band’s most organic, raw and unselfconscious record to date.
It also finds Suede exploring new sonic territory, something unexpected at this late stage in their career. For the Strangers is sweet and simple, not words normally associated with the band, its subtle but sure melody slowly building to a big warm hug of a chorus.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum lies What Are You Not Telling Me?, a stark and spooked piano ballad which blossoms into a desperately sad chorus. There are lesser moments, too, particularly the unmemorable Always, and Bloodsports plays it too safe to restore the band to the vanguard of British pop.
But it’s a fine Suede record, a passionate and seductive creature which reminds us of how distinctive and dynamic this most underestimated band can be. And that is a little miracle in itself.