Had Suede continued releasing music instead of breaking up in the early 2000s, an album like former frontman Brett Anderson’s Black Rainbows could easily have been the band’s current offering. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Anderson’s solo work in these intervening years honors his former group.
With Black Rainbows, Anderson carries on many of the structural and aesthetical elements that characterized Suede’s songs and set the band apart from its ’90s Britpop contemporaries. His high, clear vocals come to the forefront of each track but are never in opposition to the music.
The arrangement of songs on Black Rainbows is like the ebb and flow of waves, taking listeners up to the peak of joy or anger before sliding into troughs of introspection or sorrow.
The slow burn of the opener, “Unsung,” rises and makes way for the thoughtful “Brittle Heart,” and the The Cure-inspired pop rocker “Crash About To Happen.”
Back down again to “I Count the Times.” A buzzing guitar and pinging keyboard accompany Anderson as he sings “There’s patterns in your hair. The flowers faint when you’re near. You don’t understand me. I don’t pretend to be that clear.”
The scalding “The Exiles,” gives way to the solemn “This Must Be Where It Ends,” about the bitterness, mistrust and infidelity that eventually destroys so many relationships. Anderson cries out, “You cannot stop the tide from flowing. You can’t hold back the sea. This must be where it ends.”
The album takes the listener back up one last time with the cocky and fun “The Actors,” and the melodious, clanging “The House of Numbers,” before breaking upon the nasty-natured “Thin Men Dancing.”
The end comes in the resonant embrace of “Possession.” Anderson’s voice, and the harmony vocals, rise one last time in the repeated, climatic refrain of, “For her….,” before falling away into single notes on a piano. This is the true emotional peak of the album and I was moved literally to tears by this song.
Black Rainbows is powerful stuff and deserves to be listened to again and again.