Suede didn't so much disband as unravel. Racked by too many indulgences and addictions, the group faded away in the early years of the new millennium, leaving behind a somewhat tarnished conclusion to what was a glorious career. Brett Anderson slowly got himself back on track, first reuniting with original Suede guitarist Bernard Butler for the rather excellent one-shot band the Tears, then carving out a contemplative solo identity where much of the squalor, sex, and grime of Suede was stripped away, leaving behind contemplative pop and broken-hearted ruminations. Eventually, as it came time to repackage and reissue the Brit-pop glory years and the prospect of high-dollar live reunions lurked, there seemed to be one logical next move: to reunite Suede as a going concern. After all, Anderson had quietly honed his craft on those solo albums, but few noticed; Suede gives him the platform he deserves. He seizes that opportunity on Bloodsports, a reunion of the Coming Up lineup lacking any of that record's gleeful, hedonistic trash. Instead, this incarnation of Suede favors the darkly majestic, romantic bent of the Butler era, with a major difference: they've replaced Butler's operatic sweep by proudly sporting the scars of time. Anderson is no longer romanticizing doomed love, he's soldiering on and his fight against the dying light gives Bloodsports an air of optimism underneath its elegant melancholy. Also, it helps that he, guitarist Richard Oakes, and Neil Codling -- a keyboardist who began his stint in the band serving almost as decoration, and has now developed into a valued collaborator, contributing songwriting credits to over half the album -- have constructed an elegantly lean, quietly forceful collection of songs that emphasize how Suede play ballads as if they're anthems and vice-versa. Where Head Music and A New Morning felt fractured and confused, Bloodsports is precise and purposeful. By excising the neon-colored glam that came to define the band in the years after Coming Up, Suede wear their middle age with style. Never once do they sound desperate on Bloodsports; they sound confident, and comfortable in the knowledge that this is where they all should be.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine