Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile Review

Four years off the back of one of their most accomplished works in over a decade in Futurology, The Manics are back with their thirteenth studio album, the typically to-the-point titled Resistance Is Futile. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have already hinted at the album’s sound being influenced by bigger, stadium rock styles in what is evocative of Springsteen and War On Drugs. It suggests the album may not be as musically versatile and imaginative as their last album, perhaps more orientated around lyrical content and pure arrangement.

Within seconds of the ‘International Blue’ opening, Bradfield’s scratching guitar parts and scraping vocals instantly plunge you into familiar territory of early 90’s Manics. It’s typical of a Manics style largely omitted from their last album of the higher pitched strings or electronica acting as the uplifting trail against the heavier sounds around it. With lyrics in tribute to artist Yves Klein, the band lend several elements of their sound and methods over the years to this track with the hint of the heartland rock of Springsteen. In that sense it is not a song evocative of the variation and bold sound of Futurology, but for Manics fans it’s exactly what you’d want. ‘Distant Colours’. is another foray into their standard, earlier sound with this track not sounding out of place on Gold Against The Soul from 1993. With brushing percussion and light riffs against James Dean Bradfield’s subtle vocals, the track then opens into lighter shades with broad guitars and more powerful vocal for the chorus. This track does not surmount to anything special or surprising like Futurology, but remains faithful track unto themselves if nothing else. ‘Dylan and Caitin’ tells of the turbulent relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin with the song split between them. James Dean Bradfield sings Dylan’s hypothetical words whilst Welsh singer songwriter Anchoress sings Caitlin’s. This song is perhaps a more pedestrian version of ‘Your Love Alone’ with its 60’s Motown arrangement around Bradfield’s typical tearing guitar.

‘Hold Me Like A Heaven’ sees the Manics at the most euphoric and sees them utilise vocal harmonies and choruses which they have seldom used before. It certainly reapplied James Dean Bradfield’s 1995 mantra of ‘taking a breath and singing a line’ to a more modern arrangement. It’s a poignant sound to relay and wistful set of lyrics. One of the highlights of the album. ‘People Give In’ shows their willingness to sharpen up their trademark string arrangements for a greater contrast for when they turn the wick up. Despite this, they keep the song rooted to its fundamental sound as opposed to a steep incline of fruition. ‘Liverpool Revisited’ is a heart-felt ode to a the spirit of the city, but in this instance the lyrics are ill-fitted to the track which veers off in non-sensical directions a little too often. The long drawn out recitals of the song’s title in ‘Broken Algorithms’ become unnecessary and though a notably heavier track, it still lacks any common direction. That seems to be where the Manics are lacking with Resistance is Futile. Whilst stylistically achieving their broader, stadium rock sound certain some songs get lost in these aims where they become difficult to follow and unsettlingly unpredictable. Their messages are as strong as ever through and when they get the music right as they do often on this album, they’re able to show flashes of brilliance and vigour which is commendable for a thirteenth album and a third decade of work.

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile = 6.5/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – Dylan and Caitlin

As the Manics approach the April 13th release of their thirteenth studio album Resistance Is Futile they have released their third single from the album with ‘Dylan and Caitlin’. It tells of the turbulent relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin with the song split between them. James Dean Bradfield sings Dylan’s hypothetical words whilst Welsh singer songwriter Anchoress sings Caitlin’s. This song is perhaps a more pedestrian version of ‘Your Love Alone’ with its 60’s Motown arrangement around Bradfield’s typical tearing guitar. Whilst it’s still a capable song, you do wonder where the Manics are trying to go with this album from its disparate singles. You wonder if Futurology might have been their last hurrah in terms of acclaim and that they’re now settling back into their comfort zone. We’ll see come April.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – International Blue

Three years off the back of one of their most accomplished works in in over a decade in Futurology, The Manics are back with their new single ‘International Single’ from their typically to-the-point album titled Resistance Is Futile which is due in April. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have already hinted at the album’s sound being influenced by bigger, stadium rock styles in what is evocative of Springsteen and War On Drugs. Within seconds of the songs opening however, Bradfield’s scratching guitar parts and scraping vocals instantly plunge you into familiar territory of early 90’s Manics. It’s typical of a Manics style largely omitted from their last album of the higher pitched strings or electronica acting as the uplifting trail against the heavier sounds around it. With lyrics in tribute to artist Yves Klein, the band lend several elements of their sound and methods over the years to this track with the hint of the heartland rock of Springsteen. In that sense it is not a song evocative of the variation and bold sound of Futurology, but for Manics fans it’s exactly what you’d want. It remains to be seen whether their thirteenth studio album will succeed in it’s creative aims, but at the very least we can enjoy the Manics just doing what they could do with their eyes closed.

Owen Riddle

Half Term Report – Top 10 albums of the year so far

For me 2014 has already eclipsed the previous year for musical diversity, creativity and innovation about all aspects of the craft; whether it’s through the production or lyrics, it has been a far better year already. The most obvious evidence is the lack of full marks in 2013 and the two full marks we’ve had already this year. On top of this, the average rating of 2013’s top 10 albums was 8.85 while the first half of 2014 has already produced a score of 9.05 and I’m sure that will rise by the time we get to December. So here are some of the contenders so far.

10. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

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Despite having a slight knack of becoming a little too bogged down in similar subdued moments, it bats those moments back with some wonderful atmospheric bursts and rhythms that encapsulate so many unexpected hooks. Another change of direction and one of their best yet.

9. Kasabian 48:13

Another marvellous piece of re-imagination after the false start of their last album; 48:13 delivers their vision almost perfectly. It’s bold, in your face and you can’t ignore it. At other times it’s unsettling and thought provoking. Whether it’s driven through eerie electronica or EDM-enthused hard rock, it works. This is even more true live.

8. Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peek some moments of real beauty. For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat. A perfect example of production discipline and manipulation.

6. Bastard Mountain – Farewell Bastard Mountain

Admittedly this album by the British folk collective was something I wasn’t expecting to blow me away and in reality it didn’t. It did, however immerse me into the raw and natural soundscapes that were produced by more traditional means. An album that is inherently beautiful and a credit to their capable musicianship. As simple as that.

5. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

4. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

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Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you. Not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further.

3. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

File:Beck Morning Phase.jpg

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the bold, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballads and down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

 

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

Images from www.entertainment-focus.com / fanart.tv

 

 

Sunday Suggestion – Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next

Here’s a little fun fact for you. In 1998 the Manic Street Preachers scored their first number one album with This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, despite the highly successful Everything Must Go in 1996. But they also grabbed their first number one single with If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next and it is the longest song title ever for a number one single (Have fun with that…). This was the first time since Richie’s disappearance back in February 1995, that none of his material featured on a Manics album, yet the political messages were still there. If not a little less brutal. I’ve always loved this song. I based my entire GCSE Art exam on the songs title and now the songs lyrical content leads me back to it in a more coincidental fashion with my university coursework I’m doing at the moment. It is based on the issues of the popular resistance of the Republican side of the Spanish Civil war as they tried to defeat the brutal fascist: General Francisco Franco. The Manics took the song’s title from a Republican poster warning about the aerial bombing raids Franco was using on the Republicans with great support from Hitler and Mussolini. The line ‘If I can shoot rabbits/then I can shoot fascists’ was taken from a remark made by one of the Republican fighters in a later interview; and it showed just how ill prepared they were in comparison. It also touches on the International Brigades full of people around the world who volunteered to try and stop the rapid spread of fascism that was taking over Europe in the 1930s. In particular the song looks at the Welsh miners who volunteered; relating to the working class ideals of the Spanish militias fighting Franco. George Orwell was one of those International Volunteers and his book Homage To Catalonia also plays a part in the songs lyrical structure. The laser like flashing of the reverbed guitars, the lightly layered solemn tune from the synths with the more fluctuating bass line all convey the sad and depressing atmosphere of the topic they are singing about. The song also gives lots of respect to those fighting that doomed conflict in the name of freedom, working class ideals and against tyranny. Will someone write a song about The Syrian Civil war in sixty years time? I doubt that they will. In many was though; the song and the conflict it is about can be used in the context of today’s doomed war. The fact of the matter was that the governments of the world did not care to help back in 1936. Apart from the reverb driven melody; maybe regret at the subject matter was part of the reason it went to the top of the charts. It wouldn’t today as the simple fact of the matter is that people don’t care anymore. They are more interested in clinging on to the hope that One Direction want to truly be their boyfriend, the size of Robin Thicke’s manhood or Rihanna’s sex life. A dying freedom fighter in Aleppo wont ever enter their minds ahead of that.

http://youtu.be/cX8szNPgrEs

Images from internetfm.com / www.deeppencil.com 

 

 

Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film Review

The Manics are pure legends of British Music and are valued and respected for the content they’ve produced for over twenty years now. However they did seem to have lost their edge slightly with their last album Postcards of a Young Man from 2010 and there was almost the feeling they had lost their way with their next work.  Now we know that this is the first of two completed albums from the Manics with Rewind The Film being the acoustic and more considered and nostalgic album and another more rock orientated towards their earlier work. Initially I was sceptical of the word acoustic being linked with a band of 40 somethings as in many past cases it’s musically and lyrically very basic and often a list of covers ‘from the songs they listened to as a nipper’ and only succeeds in their old catalouges being dug out. However with ‘Rewind the Film’ they have been able to develop a distinct mood and tone while keeping that sense of nostalgia albeit at a slightly less positive angle. It’s by no means a nothing acoustic ballad from a fading star losing the best of his vocal or a pointless churning through guitar chords. This is also an album that I’ve featured twice already with the tracks ‘Rewind The Film’ and ‘Show Me The Wonder’ and from that it’s not fallen into any stereotypes of aging rockers and acoustic guitars but does the album maintain it? 

The Manics decided that only Richard Hawley could deliver the title track ‘Rewind The Film’ for them otherwise it would not be worth putting on the album. Having developed a friendship with lead singer James Dean Bradfield, Hawley was happy to do so and didn’t want to let them down and mentioned how much of an honour it was to record with the Manics. It’s very much his tune with the Manics acting as backing band while Hawley’s rich and deep vocal runs against the instrumentals to really create a sombre feel to the song. The drama comes in the form of James Dean Bradfield making the odd burst towards the end and his powerful and energetic vocal still sounds as good as it did back in 1992 so there are no problems on that front. Of course musically it’s pretty basic, but the length of the song allows for a subtle but noticeable build up in sound from something sombre and considered to something grand and dramatic. Generally the track has been well received and perhaps taken a few critics by surprise due to wow they’ve utilised the acoustic sound in their own way.  ’Show Me The Wonder’ is the Manics taking the lead. It’s much more the positive, light hearted ballad they’ve been plugging for the last few years but’s been very much refreshed by the acoustic sound… yes I said refreshed. In addition to this it’s just a lot more catchy too with the trumpets giving the melody.  On the flipside to the title track its much more hopeful and optimistic in a sense lyrically; but also in the general tone and musicality of the song. The powerful and joyful vocals, the trumpets and the catchy riffs, percussion and bass lines.

’30-Year War’ is an odd song in principle to the acoustic sound with the synth beats and effects fused with it. As well as the vocal echo and isolation effects. Its almost Manics circa 2004 and it does start to work and gel together as a concept the more you listen to it. Perhaps this is helped as its something they’ve done before with Lifeblood. The lyrics and general message is an anti-Thatcher one. Including what she did to the working classes and her actions after Hillsborough etc. ‘(I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline’ is the epitome of the album with the way they’ve worked and manipulated the acoustic sound in much of the same way as ‘My Little Empire’ or ‘Ready For Drowning’ from 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and that is why it works so well as it did in 1998. ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’ is probably more akin to the standard acoustic album and this has probably been tailored to Lucy Rose’s contribution but it’s a nice track and contrast between J.D.B’s more rough edged vocal against Lucy’s softer and more delicate sound. Rewind The Film is not too generic and its by no means so experimental and conceptualized that it isn’t relatable or translatable. The lyrics are and music share equal footing and in general it just shows that the Manics are still capable of being truly creative.

Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film = 8.5/10

Images from something-gold-something-new.com / www.amazon.co.uk 

 

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – Show Me The Wonder

Everyone listen up! Single of the week is no more! I thought ‘why just have one when I could have so many more?’ So yeah, now I’m treating them like the album reviews which have no rules but of course the reviews will be a lot more snappy than that of an album. To start this off, I chose the Manic Street Preachers. The legends that they are. I did an album taster on them a month ago for the ‘Rewind The Film’ track off the album of the same name. It was quite intriguing and exciting that they were doing the acoustic sound justice and making it all dramatic as they do. Richard Hawely conveyed a sort of nostalgic yet bleak picture in the song. However ‘Show Me The Wonder’ is the Manics taking the lead. It’s much more the positive, light hearted ballad they’ve been plugging for the last few years but’s been very much refreshed by the acoustic sound… yes I said refreshed. In addition to this it’s just a lot more catchy too with the trumpets giving the melody and shows that they are still hoping for a decent chart showing perhaps. Or maybe there was no intention with this song. They hardly need anymore chart success which they were still getting into their forties. I’m not saying much on that subject other than I hope it does well in the charts. Though I doubt it will, the charts are fast becoming a waste of space anyway.  I wasn’t really expecting the light hearted musicality of this song but it’s by no means a bad thing either and the video too still evokes that nostalgic feel to the album.

http://youtu.be/J9L-jyFEsK4

Image from www.likeanegg.com 

Album Taster – Rewind the Film – Manic Street Preachers feat Richard Hawley

The Manics are pure legends of British Music and are pretty widely respected and valued in that light. However they did seem to have lost their edge slightly with their last album Postcards of a Young Man from 2010 and there was much confusion with what their next move would be after that. Then a few weeks ago they revealed that they had recorded two whole albums! One acoustic and another more rock orientated. It would seem that they have chosen to release the acoustic album first under the title Rewind the Film which is also the name of the track they are using for the album taster. Initially I was sceptical of the word acoustic being linked with a band of 40 somethings as in many past cases it’s by musically and lyrically very basic and often a list of covers ‘from the songs they listened to as a nipper’ and only succeeds in their old catalouges bing dug out. However with ‘Rewind the Film’ they have been able to develop a distinct mood and tone while keeping that sense of nostalgia albeit at a slightly less positive angle. It’s by no means a nothing acoustic ballad from a fading star losing the best of his vocal or a pointless churning through guitar chords. The three boys from Blackwood decided that only Richard Hawley could deliver this song for them otherwise it would not be worth putting on the album. Having devloped a friendship with lead singer James Dean Bradfield, Hawley was happy to do so and didn’t want to let them down and mentioned how much of an honour it was to record with the Manics. It’s very much his tune with the Manics becoming his backing band as Hawley’s rich and deep vocal runs against the instrumentals to really create a sombre and considered song. The drama is presented when James Dean Bradfield makes the odd contribution towards the end and his powerful and energetic vocal still sounds as good as it did back in 1992 so there are no problems on that front. Generally the track has been well recienved and perhaps taken a few critics by suprise. The Manics don’t seem content with toning down their creativity as perhaps some might have thought and have shown they are capable of writing more thought provoking and challenging songs. I hope this is a true indicator of their 12th album and a hopeful sign for their 13th but there is still some questions lingering as this was more a Richard Hawley song rather than a Manics song so wait and see.

http://youtu.be/PwwtOd3pMlk

Image from http://www.gigwise.com/