CD Review: Brett Anderson, Wilderness (2008)

I wasn’t going to do this, but we’ve actually been getting some traffic from people looking for it so….

A friend sent me a link to a leaked copy of the second solo album from Brett Anderson about a month ago. I played it once. Yesterday I decided that was unfair so I put it on my iPod and started to play it a second time on the way to the bus for work. I made it through about a minute and a half of the first song before revulsion overtook me and I had to turn it off.

The best way to describe Brett Anderson’s newest offering is that if I didn’t know who he was and I had never been a Suede fan and somebody played this for me, I probably wouldn’t remember what it sounded like 5 minutes later. Musically it’s one long dirgeful whinge. He’s record-label-less and probably can’t afford to hire a studio band so instead he’s decided to pretend that he’s going for gravitas and so it’s piano and cello. Except there’s no texture to anything because he was never the musical one in Suede so it just drones. Not only that but the album is nine songs long and at least 2 of them have been released before, although in slightly different form. Of those two, “Back to You” has been out twice before, both different versions. The first two were pretty good, it’s the best thing he’s done post-Tears. The version on Wilderness, with horrendous female vocals courtesy of, I’m told, Roman Polanski’s wife, ruins the song so badly that I may never be able to listen to it again. Cheers Brett.

The same friend who sent me the link for the album reckons that lyrically it’s Brett Anderson’s best work in years. It may well be, but any credibility he had left went out the door when he was singing about how wanting stuff was shallow but was turning up at every product launch going and then he tried to justify it as “I have to make a living.” Well, if you have to whore yourself about for money don’t tell other people they’re wrong to do the same thing. So really, lyrically, I’m not feeling what he’s singing anymore because I don’t believe he’s sincere about a single syllable that comes out of his mouth.

I could possibly live with the idea that he was feeling guilty about the whole thing which is why he was writing songs about how you shouldn’t buy stuff until he started giving off recently about how he’s very happy and things are the best they’ve ever been and then produces a miserable album where he sings about being depressed and lonely (and I’m sure some uber-fan will correct me and give me a run down of every theme on the album now, bring it on…). I get it, he probably is very depressed and lonely, wondering what happened to his career, but then if that’s the case, don’t tell your fans and journalists you’re thrilled where you are – tell them you’re pissed off, get angry, get philosophical and stop waffling. He says one thing, he does another, I don’t buy a word of it anymore. Either he’s full of shit in the press (most likely) or he’s trying to write the songs people expect him to write. Or both.

If he’s happy, then why is he singing miserable songs? Write some upbeat pop tunes, churn out an anthem or two, at least try and get some people dancing! If he’s not happy then don’t mope – get angry about it and show some fire! The acoustic stuff was okay briefly when it made me think for a second he might be showing a bit of emotion rather than playing up to the audience. Now he’s just milking that angle to try and make the songs sound emotionally deeper than they probably are.

Ultimately I suspect this album is an exercise in futility aimed at getting a bit of cash off the 100 people who are still willing to pay money for his output merely because he’s Brett Anderson, he has a nice fringe and he used to be in Suede. As far as I can tell, however, he’s biding his time at this point for that Suede reunion where him, Mat Osman and Neil Whatshisname tour as Suede with a session guitarist and drummer so they’ll have money for their retirement. It’ll be a relief when he finally gives up any pretense at still having credibility and just gets on with it.

*Update 13/09/08- We’ve had a sudden surge of visitors from a couple of German MP3 sites looking for these tracks and we’re afraid that as a result we’re out of bandwidth. Try again in a couple of weeks or, erm, take The Guardian up on their special offer and buy the album.

Brett Anderson – A Different Place

Brett Anderson – Back to You (album version)

37 Responses to “CD Review: Brett Anderson, Wilderness (2008)”

  • C. Bokhove Says:

    As an old time suede fan I have had problems getting used to this. And Dog Man Star will never be topped (by almost noone, perhaps Antony and the Johnsons). However, Wilderness isn’t bad compared to current offerings.

  • Rich Says:

    I haven’t heard Wilderness yet, but was that a review of Brett’s album, or Brett’s public persona? If you want to be taken seriously as a critic, you should probably mention more than one song from an album you are reviewing when discussing why you do or do not like it. It’s clear that your personal feelings about Anderson are blatantly colouring any opinion of his music.

  • JustHipper Says:

    Of course my personal opinions are colouring what I think of his music! I’ve just said I think he’s full of shit which means I can’t take his lyrics seriously anymore.

    That’s the whole point of this post. Musically I found the album so boring I can’t listen to it and I don’t believe a word he sings because he’s so goddamned insincere.

    I’m a blogger not a music critic and a blog is an expression of personal thoughts and opinions – it’s not professional music journalism and it’s not intended to be – I think that would detract from what we do because it would necessarily have to become impersonal, which would mean it was no longer a blog.

    This post is essentially what went through my head when I heard the album. It’s not a detailed description of the songs. To give that I’d have to listen to them with more scrutiny and when I try all I can think of is how I feel betrayed by the fact that somebody whose music meant a lot to me in a very difficult time has turned out to be nothing more than a shallow, materialistic hypocrite. It actually makes my skin crawl.

  • Dave Brown Says:

    Is it worse than his first solo album? That was lucky to get to the end.

  • JustHipper Says:

    Dave, from what I took in, it was essentially just like his first solo album but reworked for cello and piano. At least there was no Fred Ball. Now if the next one has no Brett Anderson then he might be on to something…;).

  • Keith Says:

    you sure only 2 of the 9 has been done before??

    how about funeral mantra.. its basically Diet Brave New Century Lite… 🙂

    And, Dave.. the first solo album craps on this one. While the first album is not even mediocre, 2 or 3 songs… were listenable.. in the sense, you wont hit the skip button when it comes out on your random playlist. this album though.. same pace for every song… sounds like one loooong whine.

  • Justhipper Says:

    I have no idea about 2 or 3 or 17 because I’ve barely played the first album b-sides and it’s too hot to go sifting through 7″ singles in the studio upstairs. You tell me ;).

    I’m going to start an advice column for washed up rock stars telling them how to be interesting – and believable – again….Maybe organise some seminars with useful study aids. Or just send Brett a copy of the Grinderman album with a note that says – “Fuck self pity. This is how you respond to hitting 40 when things haven’t turned out like you wanted them to.”

  • BigKelly Says:

    How can you say Brett is insincere. He has more talent than you could ever dream of. Wilderness is his best album, it really hits home, his words, the music all together it screams the sincerity. Brett has been through a lot and it’s people like you who are always trying to keep him down. Thankfully he has some true fans and we will not stand for such crap from a wannabe blogger.

  • kate Says:

    exuse me,but which song on wilderness is about loneliness?

  • zebras54 Says:

    If he is happy making miserable songs and using piano/acoustic guitar + cello arrangements then it’s OK. Fine if you are not a fan but I can’t see why you are getting so worked up about it. Why do you bother reviewing that album in the first place?

  • bulut Says:

    first of all thanks for your comment. You know what, folks just forget that reviews include mostly personal opinions. They got reviews so serious. That’s why i won’t stop giving low ratings to nonessential albums, funny hah? He’s just a musician, don’t kill yourself because of looser record.

  • JustHipper Says:

    Cheers Bulut.

    Kate, if your album isn’t, at heart, the product of lonliness and feeling like you don’t belong then why would you call it “Wilderness”? Unless I really missed the point and it’s actually a concept album about a camping trip in the deserts of Australia?

  • NC Says:

    It’s better than herpes.


  • placebo Says:

    I actually find the album positive and full of lust for life. The reviewer has not understood anything from the songs which is not surprising because only certain people have the heart and the soul to be able to feel Brett’s solo works.

    I don’t care if Brett is honest or not, sometimes people forget that art comes from artificial. It’s all about the quality.

  • Keith Says:

    NC.. while you may have had fun on the way to catching herpes…

    there is no enjoyment in WIlderness. Not on bit. It’s really a very lazy attempt to please the 50 or so people who still bother to buy what he puts out.

  • JustHipper Says:

    “..only certain people have the heart and soul to be able to feel Brett’s solo works”? I like that. We have to create a comment hall of fame for that corker.

  • Keith Says:

    wht about people who are scathing? like.. me? do i get a hall of shame?

  • Lurker Says:

    This is the most honest and truthful ‘review’ I have read about this piece of shite called wilderness.

  • JustHipper Says:

    See Keith, you have to exude brilliance and not know it. You know the sort ;).

  • Gerdo Says:

    The album is fantastic

  • marzipan Says:

    guys, it’s just an album and that’s just a review. why so serious?

    plus, anderson, i think, is a true melancholic, even if he has a simple happy life with a loving wife he’ll continue to make such gloomy songs. and actually, if you listen careful enough you may also see happiness, lust, bliss in those songs.

    i found the review a bit harsh but i definitely agree with the blogger on ugliness of Back to You. i got so excited when i heard piano, cello and anderson singing Back to You. and then, this woman started “lieeeke a foouul”. oh please mr. anderson you shouldn’t have done this to us.

  • Justhipper Says:

    Thank you Marzipan for such a thoughtful response. I have seen all those things in previous songs. My issue – apart from the musical blandness (if you’re going to do an acoustic album it still needs variations in the pace and the tone) – is that I just don’t believe in his sincerity. If he were singing party tunes or writing observational songs then maybe, but his attitude and public persona and stage presence makes me think he’s playing up to expectations rather than being really honest and vulnerable.

    I think I am going to one of his gigs in September, we’ll see if he’s more convincing on stage.

  • i'veforgottenit Says:

    just hipper, you’re a bit thick, clearly. Wilderness is a beautiful record, and a real departure in sound for Brett. if you can’t hear the sincerity in it, pity you. lyrically it’s really quite poetic and there’s not a poor song on it. in fact P Marius is simply stunning.

  • NC Says:

    Okay, I have to ask… You’re a James fan, right? Do you feel this same way about credibility, sincerity & Tim Booth? ‘Cause I just saw a commercial for an SUV with a song off the new James album and all I could think was, “I hope Tim Booth can afford gas for that thing.” I’m not discounting your argument with Brett’s sincerity… just wondering if you apply it equally. Cause I could give a fuck about sincerity and I still like James, but seriously… an SUV commercial? Now??


  • Justhipper Says:

    WTF?! Are you serious?!

    I can’t even fathom them agreeing to that but you never know.

    I will be disappointed if they’ve done it themselves. At least this is a question that might achieve a straight answer.

  • bonusbertie Says:

    What a great blog. And I don’t agree with a word of it.

    It is clear that Justhipper is one of many fans who still expect Brett to write 3 minute pop tunes, even in his middle aged years. Or get angry and write bitter songs.

    But Brett doesn’t want to do that anymore.

    It’s also clear that JustHipper has put a lot of effort into his blog, has responded concisely to any replies which has came his way, and is also going to see him in September, so his critique of Brett is as valid as anyone’s.

    I think Wilderness is a pretty good record to be honest and think that Brett is writing very sincere songs these days. To me it’s the perfect thing for him to be doing just now.

    As Justhipper states, this is not a professional critique per se, just some thoughts on why he thinks Brett has lost his mojo. What’s wrong with that?

  • JustHipper Says:

    Ahh Bertie, I don’t expect pop or bitterness. I do expect sincerity, vulnerability, honesty, experimentation, and, erm, variety.

    And no, I don’t consider this experimentation. When you can’t afford backing musicians it’s obvious you’re going to swing towards minimalism. Plus he did a full acoustic thing on the last album – after fans kept saying that the acoustic parts of his set while touring the eponymous album (read: The SUEDE bits) were the best parts. I could have predicted this.

    What would have surprised me would have been a one-man electro CD done on his computer with lots of bleeps and looping and lyrics about robot pigs and flying (diesel and gasoline) cars. That’s an album I’d get behind.

    BRETT, if you’re reading this, PLEASE WRITE A BLEEPY ELECTRO SONG ABOUT ROBOT PIGS! I promise to say (at least one) nice things if you do.

  • The Ledge Says:

    Why do so many people assume that JustHipper is male? I seriously hope she isn’t. Seriously.

  • The Indie Credential » Blog Archive » The Manchester Gig Guide: 21st - 27th September 2008 Says:

    […] get the opportunity to lob rotten tomatoes, rocks and pints of piss at me as I head down to see Brett Anderson attempt to interest us in his latest solo offering at the Royal Northern College of Music. My […]

  • The Indie Credential » Blog Archive » Gig Review: Brett Anderson, Manchester Royal Northern College of Music, 26th September 2008 Says:

    […] night’s gig at the Royal Northern College of Music in support of your new album, Wilderness, was many things, but it was far from being a typical Brett Anderson gig. I know we’ve had […]

  • BernardButler Says:

    Yo my dear sirs,

    You are so right, why do you think i disbanded the Tears ASAP??????


  • BernardButler Says:

    Plus he can’t play guitar/piano/cello/moog…………..

  • Brettspy Says:

    I saw Brett round the back of the bins at Notting Hill tesco scrounging food out of the bins. I pulled him about it and he said that he couldnt afford to buy food anymore. I said you lie then he said – well ok then i cant buy food in supermarkets anymore cos of the fans shouting at me about owning possessions – christ when i wrote that i didnt mean food – even the africans can afford to shop in tesco these days, christ guvnor.’

  • Javier Says:

    First, the CD is great, and yes it it melancholic, it is sad and it is all you want to call it but it is great music. The guy is Brett Anderson!!, don’t you think he has already earned to right to play whatever what he wants?

    Why everyone thinks every musician in the world has to follow the same path, i think the lyrics and the vocal in this cd are nothing but amazing…

    If someone wants to hear upbeat stuff, go listen rihanna and snoop dog and all that garbage they call music now.

    Good job Brett and thanks Suede for all those fantastic years in music.

  • cocteaulab Says:

    Hi to all,

    I’d like to share with you some footages from the MAGIC performance that BRETT ANDERSON gave us in LIMA, last Thursday, June 11.

    Please go to COCTEAULAB – Lima Videosónica:

    Cheers from Peru,
    Jean (Cocteaulab)

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