It didn’t take very long to realize that Wilderness, the second solo album by former Suede front man Brett Anderson was an album of a different sort than I’d come to expect from my former musical idol. Brassy? Trashy? Glam rock pop confection? You couldn’t hang these labels to Wilderness with a staple gun.
Try instead sparse, atmospheric, solemn, sentimental, and utterly engaging. According to Anderson, the album was recorded in a week, with Anderson playing acoustic guitars and piano, accompanied by cellist Amy Langley, and joined by French actress Emmanuelle Seigner who duets with Anderson on the track “Back To You”. And that’s the extent of musicians involved. Considering the multi-layered work Anderson’s more commonly associated with, Wilderness is so far back to basics that it can’t even compare with his back catalogue.
And in the end, that’s a good thing, as Anderson needed a chance to shed some of the weight of his former glories and move ahead musically. His first solo album wasn’t all that far from where Suede left off, which was a pale version of what was once an exciting and challenging musical experience. By the end of Suede, the spark of creativity and vitality were gone, and the band were churning out by-the-numbers versions of songs they did better five years earlier. Fans looked forward to Anderson’s reunion with former Suede guitarists Bernard Butler as The Tears for more classic glam-rock pop songs, but when that partnership went into hiatus, it seemed like Brit Pop’s bad boy’s days in the industry were over.
Wilderness was released in late 2008, and I’m sad to say I missed out on it until now. These are perhaps the best songs he’s written in years, lyrically unmatched since the days of “The Drowners” and most of Dog Man Star. Anderson’s voice has always been his ace in the hole, and on this album it is front and center and sounding as strong as ever. This is an album not to be missed.
Tags: Brett Anderson, Suede