Suede: Night Thoughts
R0 - United Kingdom - Warner Music
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (14th May 2016).
The Film

Suede “Night Thoughts” (2015)

English rock band Suede - comprised of vocalist Brett Anderson, guitarist Bernard Butler, bassist Mat Osman, and drummer Simon Gilbert burst on the music scene in 1992 with a glam rock inspired sound and gothic inspired looks with the debut single “The Drowners”, with every music publication stamping them as the next big thing. Their debut album “Suede” was released the following year and the hype did not die - the album debuted at number one in the UK and was one of the fastest selling debut albums in UK history. Singles charted, a Mercury Music Prize won, a worldwide tour followed, but success bred pressure and compromise. Their follow-up single to the first album was “Stay Together” - charting at #3 on the UK singles charts but was disowned by the band themselves for being way too commercial and bland in sound as well as a "terrible" music video accompaniment. Their 1994 subsequent album “Dog Man Star” was a much darker album in both theme and sound, with the band taking no compromises. The album was not a big hit, charting at #3 and none of the singles hitting the top 10. It was critically praised and many fans call it their best work in hindsight, but internal turmoil also caused guitarist Bernard Butler to quit the band.

Suede somehow did the impossible by replacing their guitarist virtuoso with another guitarist virtuoso - Richard Oakes who stepped in and was a perfect fit for the band. They also recruited keyboardist Neil Codling making them a five-piece. Their follow-up albums 1996’s “Coming Up” and 1999’s “Head Music” both were number 1 albums in the UK and had numerous top 10 singles. Some fans criticized their slightly more commercial sounding music compared to the first two albums, but most were extremely pleased with their output and success around the world - their albums and singles charted everywhere around Europe and Asia, but as with most Brit bands of the 1990’s, success eluded them in America. Suede had some difficulty not only capturing the charts in America but also with their name - a folk singer going by the name Suede sued the band for using the name and so their first album had to be repressed with their American name - The London Suede. Although signed to Columbia Records / Sony Music even in America, they were never able to get an album to chart on the Billboard 200. Even with appearances on television in America with shows such as “The Tonight Show”, it did not seem to help with any sales, only to be embraced by… (ahem) “The Outsiders” of mainstream music. Things did not look positive in 2002 - Neil Codling left the band and their 5th album “A New Morning” was a critical and commercial failure - charting at a miserable #24 in the UK, had no hit singles, and was the only Suede album not to be released in America. The band called it quits soonafter.

After years of inactivity, the band returned in 2010 with some live performances and in 2013 with a new album titled “Bloodsports” for Warner Records, a departure from their long relationship with Sony Music. The album entered the top 10 in the UK, charted in various countries around the world (except America), and was a return to form for the band with critics and fans calling it their best album since “Dog Man Star”. Sound-wise it was big and heavy on guitars and keys with everlooming darkness splashed with positivity. It was like Suede never went anywhere and never lost a step. (As we shall either forget “A New Morning”, or have it reappraised.)

For their seventh album “Night Thoughts”, Suede has created yet another amazing piece of work worthy of their almost entirely impressive discography. Like a spiritual cross between the darkness and sadness of their second album “Dog Man Star” and the energetic reflective work of “Bloodsports”, their 2016 album is a rocking effort filled with despair, and it works beautifully.

For “Night Thoughts”, it was made as both a full length album and an accompanying film, with the full length album being the soundtrack to a dialogue and sound effects free film. Directed by music video director Roger Sargent, it is a non-linear film looking at a man’s life filled with tragedy. It jarringly starts with the young man Bryn (played by Alex Walton) trying to drown himself in the sea, and during the time underwater he is embraced by Sasha (played by Jane Walsh), though it seems to be within his mind rather than a physical presence, as we learn that she was the love of his life - one that gives him the spirit to love as well as the cause of much of his pain. Flashbacks in a non-linear form show that Bryn and Sasha have had an extremely rocky relationship - some scenes show passion and smiles while others show blood and violence.

Each song is an episode into their tumultuous time, almost entirely seen through the eyes of Bryn - how he sees himself, how he imagines and remembers her, as well as the other people within their lives. Bryn’s father (played by Paul Dewdney) and Sasha’s father (played by Tim Parker) - with his father’s death as seen during “No Tomorrow” and the violence he inflicts upon Sasha’s father, it’s not explained in depth as to what his relationship was like with either of them, but obviously not very positive. During “I Don’t Know How to Reach You”, the scene shows two parallel times between Bryn and Sasha’s relationship intercut with each other, showing the happiness of the two mirrored by the violence between the two. The most heartbreaking is during the song “Tightrope”, a devastating incident of Bryn losing his young son Cian (played by Gabe Trimble) which the song makes even stronger and unforgettable in heartbreak.

There are happier instances of fun, as the scene with “What I’m Trying to Tell You” is like the famous scene in “Say Anything” but instead of a boombox is Bryn singing and dancing to the song in her backyard. “Like Kids” is like a surreal music video, filled with superimposed images of silliness. Is the naked guy lying down by the window an homage to the “Dog Man Star” coverart? And is the framing of people an homage to the “Coming Up” coverart? Possibly so. This is one part of the film that stood out too much as “we need a part of the film that can double easily as a music video” and seemed extremely out of place.

Overall, it is an art film that works as an experiment but without the music it would be quite hollow and empty. Suede’s songs compliment the film as a necessity, though the songs can still be heard on their own and singles-wise, the individual songs work if listened to separately. Rocking songs like “The Outsiders” (the first single) and “No Tomorrow” are great to turn the volume up with. The quiet and slower “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants” and “Tightrope” are gorgeous works that rank with the best of Suede’s works. The finale, “The Fur and the Feathers” is epic with the ending sounding Pink Floyd-ian with its grand scale sound, which the only negative aspect might be that it ends much too soon. It could have just gone on forever to a heavenly sound but fades into quietness preemptively.

Following the releases of the singles “The Outsiders” and “Like Kids” in late 2015, Suede released “Night Thoughts” in January of 2016 to widespread critical and commercial acclaim, hitting the top 10 in the UK and charting in many countries (but yet again not the Billboard 200 in America!). For live performances, the film was projected on a screen while the band performed the music in sequence with the film to positive reactions.

Note the DVD is region 0 NTSC which can be played back on any DVD player worldwide

Video

The film of “Night Thoughts” is presented in 1.78:1 in anamorphic widescreen in the NTSC standard. The aspect ratio should cause some debate as the original trailer shows the film in the ratio of 2.40:1. Which is the “original” ratio is uncertain with IMDB not listing the aspect ratio. The 1.78:1 has more information than the 2.40:1 framing on the trailer and within the booklet, so this is an open matte ratio rather than cropped. The transfer of the framing is one thing. The color timing is another. The trailer has more saturated colors while the film itself on the DVD has more muted sepia tinted colors with much more dull browns and greys. The film looks quite ugly and overly dull in color palate - a far cry from the trailer and the gorgeous artwork on the album cover and booklet. The stills in the booklet are in 2.40:1 and the colors match that of the film. Hard to say which is the accurate look.

Another problem (yes another) is the frame-rate. This is an NTSC disc but there is prevalent ghosting in every few frames which frequently happens when a 25fps PAL video gets transferred to NTSC. Possibly if they had left the video at 25fps it would have looked smoother. Currently it seems the film has only been released in the NTSC standard worldwide so this is the only option at the moment.

Overall it is not an ideal looking disc, sadly.
The film runs (52:10)

Audio

Music LPCM 2.0 stereo
The film gets a lossless LPCM stereo track identical to that on the CD. There are no upgrades to surrounds or loss with a Dolby Digital track. The sound is pretty much as perfect as it gets with stereo separation. Vocals and instruments are equally balanced with production by Ed Buller, who has worked with Suede since their first album in 1993.

There are no subtitles offered for the song lyrics. The booklet does not print the lyrics either.

Extras

The first disc is the standard CD of the full 12 track album:

DISC ONE (CD)
1. When You Are Young
2. Outsiders
3. No Tomorrow
4. Pale Snow
5. I Don't Know How to Reach You
6. What I'm Trying to Tell You
7. Tightrope
8. Learning to Be
9. Like Kids
10. I Can't Give Her What She Wants
11. When You Were Young
12. The Fur & The Feathers

The second disc is the DVD which includes the film with a generous chapter listing of the songs, plus a few extras:

DISC TWO (DVD)

"Outsiders" music video (4:08)
The music video slightly differs from that of the main feature. While in the film it shows Bryn embracing and kissing Sasha underwater in extreme slow motion with cuts to flashbacks and speed manipulated footage of the kissing, the music video is one-shot-one-take. It entirely features the characters kissing and embracing underwater in super slow motion. Certainly not the most exciting or creative videos out there, as the film version is much better in terms of content and editing. Is the image of the embracing kiss a nod to Suede’s first album cover? The color timing again is different to the main feature further deepening the mystery of how the film should look.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in LPCM 2.0 stereo

Teaser (0:19)
The teaser trailer for the announcement for the album
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in LPCM 2.0 stereo

Trailer (1:05)
A trailer featuring scenes from the film. As stated, the color timing and the framing are completely different to that of the main feature.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in LPCM 2.0 stereo

So that’s all there is. A very minor selection of extras that doesn’t do much justice to the film or the album. No input from Suede, the director of the film, or the actors at all. Suede members have contributed to commentary tracks on their DVD collection Lost in TV with anecdotes on all their music videos, but none are here. Fortunately the band members have made their comments available on their Suede Official YouTube page under “Track by Track” which they comment on all tracks from “Night Thoughts”. These were uploaded in February following the release of the album.

Packaging

There are multiple versions of the album available:

Standard CD edition which only includes the CD album and not the film.
Vinyl edition which includes the vinyl album on 2 discs on 180 gram heavyweight high quality vinyl, an MP3 download code, and not the film.
CD+DVD edition includes the CD album plus the DVD of the film and extras.
Limited Edition CD+DVD edition includes the CD album, DVD of the film and extras, plus a 44 page book in a digi-book packaging.
Limited Edition CD+DVD edition exclusive includes the CD album, DVD of the film and extras, plus a 44 page book in a digi-book packaging and exclusive to the Suede store with two A5 size prints.

Overall

“Night Thoughts” is another yet amazing work by Suede and one of their most consistent yet. It's heartbreaking, devastating, beautiful, and energetic - music fans should not hesitate. The film itself has some trouble with the DVD transfer, but it is a mostly worthy additional part to the album.

The score for “Night Thoughts: The Album”: A
The score for “Night Thoughts: The Film”: B-

The Film: B- Video: C- Audio: A Extras: D Overall: B-

 


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