Manic Street Preachers – Futurology Review

The Manics have always generated a real sense of interest and expectation each time they announce a new album and this, their twelfth is no different in spite of many of their counterparts fading into some sort of middle aged obscurity by this stage of their careers; largely from typecasts they can no longer live up to or from simply a lack of any creation. With Postcards of a Young Man from 2010 you started to get the feeling that this was the destination that these legends of British music were heading. The trio of The Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell me Yours were starting to become distant and closed memories. Though their 21st century form was a pleasant one, it wasn’t a daring or innovative one. There was even a suggestion that the Manics may end all together, but they announced early last year that they had two albums ready to go which was a bit of a shock. 2013’s Rewind The Film was a bit of a surprise too. It had a lyrical, musical and sobering feel not present in The Manics since 1998. It was one of the greatest achievements of last year’s music though it was only a hint or a clue that they still had what it took to lead the way and the lack of any leading and powerful albums that year had flattered it even more, as good as the album was. Futurology is perhaps the biggest test they have faced since the painful time of 1995 and 1996. Their last album has set them up to deliver like they used to again. Pushing boundaries and being dynamic, but now they will have their age being thrown back into their faces if they don’t. There are no excuses when you have achieved so much. This album has European blood running through its veins and Hansa studios in Berlin was used to record the album and given the political state these islands are in at the moment, it’s refreshing to have something representing unity instead of bitter division.

‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ is a track that opens with a wonderful jolting riff with an indelible canorous tinge, opening the track with slick tenacity and purpose. Alongside it runs with James Dean Bradfield’s close and slightly warm sounding vocal before it the bursts with the light of electronically charged pop chords set against the heavy beat, bass line and shimmering guitars along with the now razor sharp vocal from James. It’s by no means the greatest song they’ve ever produced but it has an infections rhythm and that added lyrical dimension that you can usually expect from a Manics track.The title track is full of the light and optimism of their music over the last decade, but this feels a lot less lost in itself and it has the direct kick to it that they deliver so well along with the gathering sound of the crashing percussion and rising riffs and vocals which fade slightly at the edges in an ominous fashion. It doesn’t predictably rise to a needless peak but still drives on with lyrics that hold interest and an extra contrast to themselves. “We’ll come back one day. We never really went away” and is sort of a confessional track lyrically. ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ was the second track to be unveiled from Futurology and is almost the epitome of the albums European construction and influence. Translated to Europe Goes Through Me;  it kicks off with a bouncing and deep lying riff that is accentuated by alarm type flashing and stocky percussion. The vocals deliver lyrics in a chant like fashion as they squeeze into the song’s thumping structure. This solid structure then goes on to dissipate and evaporate with glistening and far off riffs along with the delivering of the German lyrics from Nina Hoss in a gentle and delicate fashion before the thumping structure sets in again along with her more aggressive and purposeful vocal as the chant like song resumes. It is a little hard to connect with at first but once the unconventional rhythms and melodies are identified then it becomes a bold song with an even bolder message.

‘Dreaming a City (Hugeskova)’ is one of the most engaging instrumental tracks I have heard in a long, long while. James Dean Bradfield is again the star, but this time it’s solely with his guitar. The track opens with Wire’s rooted and heavy bass line which Bradfield’s tearing guitar fires high above of. On top of this, it’s boosted by the synth charged melodies that sound out and expand around the razor-like riff. It’s the sort of electronically powered rock that they were aiming for and it works. ‘Misguided Missile’ has a centred riff that is full of bounce and spring that has the other elements fall upon it. The isolated percussion and background scratches. It’s a song that constantly alters it’s make up with the darker undertones and lyrics of the verses that expand into optimism in the chorus before falling into the verse again, bit with the added lightweight feel of the delicate strings along with it. The song concludes with the gradual instrumental construction as the sounds build up to a conclusion from the lone vocal. A wonderful song both lyrically and musically. ‘The Next Jet To Leave Moscow’ has the similar light and shades to it, yet it is set around a more constant and engineered rotation. The album also has moments of paused consideration and reflection with tracks such as ‘Divine Youth’ which features the swooning and simply beautiful vocal of Georgia Ruth which set around the sweeping harp strings and simple bass lines. As she goes on, the music begins to flower and grow along with the vocal contributions of JDB. It’s a song that continues to bloom as It goes and is the most graceful moment of the album. ‘Sex, Power, Love and Money’ appears to be a more classic Manics sound with the screeching guitars along with the screaming vocals and this is true for the chorus, however for the verses it has a rhythmic rock pop dynamic about it that tee’s it up for the aggressive chorus. The album concludes with ‘Mayakovsky’. A track with looping and flashing sounds and rhythms that are slightly muted by the heavily distorted guitar that plays a tuneful and restrained riff until the piano gives it the signal to let itself go in a wild piece of guitar work. It then fades out into the distant and echoed messages of European unity. Perhaps ominous of the lack of unity and inclusiveness these islands have took on. It has lived up to the hype and expectation to my welcoming surprise. It delivers their long awaited ambitions of a Eurocentric sound and it sounds glorious. It’s fluctuating and dynamic with the moments of electronica and rock fusions, elements of beauty, rage and loss. on top of this it’s lyrical content is as relevant and meaningful as ever. The Manics have turned the tide of middle age obscurity and what a way to do it.

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology = 9.5/10

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