Bernard Butler: Good Grief – Suede guitarist returns to the fray older, wiser and stronger

The songwriter and producer’s first solo album in 25 years, Good Grief carries a hefty confessional tone missing from his many collaborations over the past 20 years

Good Grief
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Artist: Bernard Butler
Genre: Folk/Rock
Label: 355 Recordings

It can take time to process heartache, but the songs on the deftly named new album by the guitarist, songwriter and producer Bernard Butler have their roots in 1993, when his father died. At the time he was 23 and the lead guitarist in Britain’s hottest new band: Suede. Recent interviews reveal that he was miserable throughout most of his 20s, his mental health undermined by what he viewed as the music industry’s lack of concern for the emotional welfare of its community. “I feel like I’ve carried a shield for three decades,” Butler recently told the i newspaper. “This record is me coming to terms with that.”

His first solo album in 25 years, Good Grief carries a hefty confessional tone that has been missing from his many songwriting collaborations over the past 20 years. (These have included a winning partnership in 2022 with Irish actor and singer Jessie Buckley, on the Mercury Prize-nominated album For All Our Days That Tear the Heart.) The songs on Good Grief were influenced by his songwriting sessions with Buckley and a determination to create work that was more authentic and starker. The outcome is a nine-track album that doesn’t swoop or swoon the way Butler’s music once did, but seeps out, song by song, in ways that befit a person in their mid-50s.

Folk-adjacent tunes such as The Wind, Deep Emotions, Camber Sands, Preaching to the Choir, Clean and London Snow fuse electric and acoustic guitars, violin, mariachi horns and the sense of someone who has accepted themselves as a flawed but adequate human being and their life as part of a slow-motion roller coaster. Butler also nods to his Irish background – a child of Irish parents, he spent many summers in their hometown of Dún Laoghaire – on The Forty Foot, which references not only Catholic guilt but also the benefits of diving into what he describes as “a pool for people with mental-health issues”.

Suede: ‘Reforming was one of the best things we ever did’Opens in new window ]

Butler returns to the fray older, wiser and stronger. It’s good to have him back.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture