Brett Anderson’s solo career has shown occasional flashes of brilliance but generally he has remained on the fringes, lacking commercial success. This year, however, he has returned to performing to large crowds with his seminal 90s band Suede. When Suede first fluttered androgynously into the public eye, their style, confidence and sheer sexuality made them almost impossible to avoid, but since Anderson has become a solo artist, he has lacked that media interest.
Some of his solo material has been criticised for being too cluttered and reliant on luxurious instrumentation instead of raw musical talent. With Black Rainbows, Anderson has sought to remedy this by giving us an album which is “restless, noisy and dynamic. Electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals – no flute players, no strings, no gimmicks, just passion”, in his own words. I think it is fair to say that he has achieved this, and while much of the music is refined, there are moments which seem chaotic.
While it is fairly obvious that this record would sound like Suede, Anderson’s other influences occasionally seem clear. ‘Crash About To Happen’ sounds like an homage to the jangly indie of The Smiths, and while Anderson is now famous for his individual voice, there are still moments when he sounds creepily similar to David Bowie.
The single ‘Brittle Heart’ is one of the finest tracks on the album, seeing Anderson returning to one of the areas at which he excels more than any other (except maybe Jarvis Cocker) – the dirty love song. A heartfelt ode with an edge, encapsulated perfectly by the couplet “Give me your brittle heart and your ashtray eyes/I’ll give you carpet burns and a slanted life”. It’s this sort of attitude that won the public over to Brett Anderson in the early 1990s and it still works today. Another track tackling one of his pet subjects, the idea of the outsider, is ‘The Exiles’. It features an intense chorus, engulfed by quiet verses with an air of suspicion, like a trigger waiting to be pulled. The exquisite and innovative drumming of Seb Rochford (famous for jazz and afros) really takes this song to the next level.
This record is rather reserved by the standards of Brett Anderson. It’s a collection of excellent pop songs dealing with the usual; love and death. Black Rainbows is a great pop album, best played loud.
Good: Catchy hooks, great lyrics and Seb Rochford’s drumming
Bad: Could do with a few more explosive moments