NIGHT THOUGHTS (SUEDE LTD)
Suede’s second album since reforming in 2010 is also their first since Brett Anderson became a dad.
But don’t come here expecting Hey Jude-style cutesy singalongs. As Anderson admitted to Loaded this week, Night Thoughts is born out of the sheer terror that keeps him awake of anything happening to his son.
What results is Suede’s most intense and epic album since the classic Dog Man Star from 1994. Where that album was made in a claustrophobic haze of chemicals and band tensions spiralling out of control, Night Thoughts is more considered, Anderson using each word like a scalpel to transmit his horror. If anything, Night Thoughts is even bleaker than its spiritual forefather.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t walloping great glam-rock stompers amongst the paranoia. First single Outsiders was effectively Trash II, while Like Kids and the sumptuously-sung No Tomorrow are also from Suede’s catalogue of gutter heroics.
Yet it’s the slow-burners that really hit home. Tightrope is a master of tension and despair, Anderson’s under-appreciated falsetto staying strong throughout, while the closing Fur And The Feathers is in the Wild Ones class of cinematic ballads.
Throughout, guitarist Richard Oakes’ playing is magnificent. He gets his sexy on for Like Kids’ feral mood, but the solo in the sprawling I Don’t Know How To Reach You is as eloquent as anything Anderson says.
Suede’s 2013 comeback album Bloodsports was a fine antidote to those who say bands should never reform. But this is where they really set down a marker: Night Thoughts is far too strong to have any caveats about it being a good album “for a band of their vintage” or “for a comeback record”. Night Thoughts isn’t classic Suede. It’s a classic album full stop.
PURPLE REIGN (FREE BANDZ)
Following a huge year in 2015 that saw him release Beast Mode, 56 Nights and Dirty Sprite 2, as well as Drake collaboration What A Time To Be Alive, it took Future all of 17 days to drop his first material of 2016.
Writing anything about the Atlantan rapper/Free Bandz head, real name Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, requires separating the man, story and music. Your personal perception on how these all interconnect can lead to anything from the conclusion that Future is someone with a truly warped mind, a pantomime villain or astute poet and storyteller.
Following the breakdown of his relationship with fiancée Ciara, Future released the pertinently titled Monster in 2014. It marked the start of him building the tale of a depraved character, angry with the world and seemingly addicted to zannies, all through offering a plethora of insights into his corrupt mind.
However, in an interview around the time Dirty Sprite 2 was released last year – the high-point of his work in 2015 and a record that suggested Future was straying ever further off the rails than ever before – he said the only reason he raps about drugs so regularly is because it’s what people want to hear from him. These claims were a rare insight into the fact that Future, who fast became one of rap’s best-loved villains, may be nothing but an elaborate character built by Wilburn himself.
The release of Purple Reign marks a spell of creativity that would buckle even the most accomplished artist in terms of quality. Yet the weight of expectation that falls on Future every time he returns only ever increases. He said himself that the mixtape is a “pre warm up” for the year, so the question is: Does Purple Reign deliver?
The mixtape – which waded in as a free-release and was accompanied by a series of hilarious internet memes using it’s ready made emoticon – starts off with a sample of Where Ya At, from Dirty Sprite 2, playing over headphones in the distance before working its way into the lurching All Right. It’s a track that, when played loud, immediately makes clear that Purple Reign tells us more about the young Atlantan producers Future has been working in this two-year spell of creativity than it does about Wilburn himself.
Vocally his ramblings pick up where Dirty Sprite 2 left off, but early contributions from long-term collaborator Metro Boomin, Dre Moon and Southside show exactly why they’re the most exciting people in the game right now. Drippin (How U Luv That) and Inside The Mattress at the mid point are probably the most accessible material ever to come from the Future camp (no bad thing), and, with the tapes’ executive producers being Future’s old-hand DJ Esco and Metro Boomin, the masterful control of the bottom end is fluid throughout.
The most revealing tracks are saved for its close, with Perkys Calling and Purple Reign stripping everything back and placing Future closer to the front of the mix than anything we’ve heard from him for a while. Both are final proof that if this tape is Future’s “pre warm up” for 2016, the year looks set to be the best yet from an artist continuing to establish himself as the most unique voice in rap.
FAT WHITE FAMILY
SONG FOR OUR MOTHERS (FAT POSSUM/WITHOUT CONTENT)
After garnering immense praise from fans and critics alike for their raucous live shows in the years following their last album, Champagne Holocaust, there was a fair assumption that Songs For Our Mothers could be the Fat Whites’ (comparatively speaking for the ramshackle band) mainstream breakthrough. Lead single Whitest Boy On The Beach was a further teaser for that premise, but as we should all know by now, Fat White Family don’t play by the rules.
In the years since Champagne Holocaust the band have lost one of their founding members, but maintain core songwriting trio; brothers Lias and Nathan Sauodi and Saul Adamczewski, and as Whitest Boy On The Beach comes towards its close it steadily wallows into an oblivion of reverb – somewhere the album never really returns from throughout.
The following ten tracks are about as far from the sound of a mainstream breakthrough as can be. Love Is The Crack could be lifted from their previous work before Duce is a lurching slab of music vaguely reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs. That’s all before Hits Hits Hits offers anything but.
If anything what Songs For Our Mothers lacks is the bombastic sing-a-long choruses of previous work Is It Raining In Your Mouth or Touch The Leather. Tinfoil Deathstar continues to up the madness before the huge drone rock underbelly of We Must Learn To Rise drags the album towards its close on Goodbye Goebbels – itself an au revoir penned from the standpoint of Hitler to one of his closest associates during Weimar Germany where he reminisces about “the good times”.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2013, Adamczewski said that the band wanted to make “stuff that makes your skin crawl”. What Songs For Our Mothers proves is that not much has changed from that point of view – marked against that credential, this album has to be seen as a huge success. And as should all know by now, if there’s any band on the planet that can make the obscure become the incredible on stage, it’s south London’s Fat White Family.
BADLY DRAWN BOY
THE HOUR OF BEWILDERBEAST (XL)
Celebrating the 15th anniversary of Damon Gough’s Mercury Prize-winning debut, its deluxe reissue allows people to be reminded of what a downright odd album it remains.
On its release, Gough was slightly shoehorned into the then voguish New Acoustic Movement of Travis, Kings Of Convenience and Starsailor. But there was always much more to him than mere singer-songwriter whimsy.
Gough’s magpie approach takes in gorgeous ballads, as on Camping Next To Water. But he throws in psychedelia, lo-fi funk, hi-fi sea shanties, rambunctious pop and hip-hop skits while somehow making it all fit together.
At the time, Gough was known for his freewheeling gigs, where he’d often hand around family photos and random trinkets among crowds. Bewilderbeast keeps that homespun charm and – even though it’s 18 songs long – removes the self-indulgence.
The bonus disc adds 10 B-sides plus the six songs from his early EP3 single. With typical cussedness, the rare EP 1 and 2’s songs are absent.
That meanness apart, it remains a fine example of British eccentricity at its finest. Although there have been some brilliant singles – You Were Right is one of the best ballads of the 00s – Gough hasn’t quite matched Bewilderbeast for consistency. But with his talent, there’s every chance he still could.
It’s time to stop regarding Gough as the lost boy of folk more prone to insulting crowds than delivering. Anyone capable of this variety of strong songwriting needs to be brought back into the fold.
Mind you, it’s typical of Gough’s luck that a 15th anniversary reissue actually arrives 16 years after the album was released.