Let’s face it, we’re all waiting for a new Suede record so from the outset Black Rainbows reeks of filler. Brett Anderson has already apologised to his Suede band mates about concentrating on recording this album while they raked in the festival dollar this summer, so he knows he’s in the wrong. A new Suede record has already been confirmed so why isn’t Anderson in a dark room pining over his David Bowie collection with Osman, Gilbert and the boys looking to inspire a new generation of floppy fringed, skinny teens?
It’s hardly as if Anderson’s solo catalogue is a wealth of material to keep going back to either. His previous solo efforts, Brett Anderson, Wilderness and Slow Attack, were middle aged spread compared to the twiggy androgyny of early Suede. Only The Tears- 2004’s reunion with Barny Butler- drew our attention to Brett from the far more entertaining England fast bowler Jimmy Anderson. In all honesty, Brett Anderson hasn’t even been forgiven for Suede’s embarrassingly turgid Head Music yet. So why should we give a shit?
Well because, to put it bluntly, Black Rainbows is fucking brilliant. Anderson has regained his voice and is using it to secure a legacy. He’s finally virile and ready for a second marriage after getting tied too young then enduring a messy divorce. ‘Brittle Heart’ sweeps aside the internet dating, subscription to Nuts and second hand Porche of middle-aged Bachelordom in exchange for flirting in Waitrose, The Chap magazine and a vintage Morris Minor. He’s hosting the gin bar with the glow of experience, his guests oozing like the sensually sticky squeeze of lime. He serenades “Give me your brittle heart and your ashtray eyes / I’ll give you carpet burns and a slanted life / and all that power and all that passion can be ours tonight.” Ooh, you would wouldn’t you. This is unabashed Ander-sex circa 1994.
Lyrically, Black Rainbows is classic Anderson: “A sabotage of lipstick”, and “a figure made of matchsticks” on ‘Crash About to Happen’, “when you tremble like a rose still dressed in summer clothes”- ‘I count The Times’, “behind her palaces of stone things are not the way they seem”- ‘In The House Of Numbers’ and “paper cuts on secret skin, blowing down this house of pins”- ‘Thin Men Dancing’. The album is strewn with mature and sincere sixth form poetry, ideal for repeatedly copying in the backs of notebooks and folders – come on, we all did it – and convincing oneself it relates directly to us. It addresses issues of isolation, love, passion, darkness and confusion, subjects at the core of indie pop which fuel song-writing and cross generations.
Black Rainbows is a sprightly pop record in essence with jangly guitars, distortion breaks and bouncy drums. It avoids the synthesised strings trap and keeps piano’s to a minimum. It’s not an arms-in-the-air-singalong but there are energetic crowd pleasers like ‘Crash About to Happen’ and the dark stomp of ‘The Exiles’. Musically it’s hardly ground breaking and if it wasn’t Anderson singing on ‘Actors’ and ‘Thin Man Dancing’ it could be any generic indie band since 1995, but neither does it sound clichéd, indeed Black Rainbow is somewhat aurally timeless: ‘In this house’ is riddled with a level of chorus effect not heard since any 1988 4AD record, yet is compact and fresh, while ‘Usung’ has an epic gothic whimsy to its effervescent aura.
At 46 minutes and 12 tracks, Black Rainbows is everything a Brett Anderson album should be, atmospheric, soulful, intellectual and sexy, but doesn’t get lost pretention and indulgence. However, it still has the feel of filler to it, and as the finale of ‘Possession’ climaxes, thoughts of Suede’s new record return. Not because we are in need of proof of Andersons abilities, but because we know if this is what has been reserved for a part time solo record, then the material produced with 100 per cent attention will certainly be something to behold. Anderson has his Mojo back with Black Rainbows, and the return of his dark, glamorous strutting is graciously welcome.