Hailed as the sequel to The Holy Bible, the 9th album from Manic Street Preachers had an awful lot to live up to. For the Manics (close friends get to call them that), The Holy Bible is possibly their darkest moment. That album was released in 1994 when Grunge was king and within a year Ritchie Edwards - part of the bands main lyric writers - went missing in February of 1995. This album is written of lyrics left over from Ritchie Edwards disappearance which was released in 2009, a year after he was officially declared "Presumed Dead".
Unlike it's darker twin, this album is in no way the same beast as the first one. How could it be - it is about 15 years after it's counterpart was released. The remaining trio are not the angry young men they once were. They have changed to a certain extent, but this album does have a darker presence that had been lacking in the albums that had preceded this. "This Joke Sport Severed" and "Facing Page:Top Left" - two of the albums acoustic numbers do not need the anger to show their shadows, they were born, breed and feed to the dark and spat out the other side to break the soul. Opening track "Peeled Apples" is a reminder of what the Manics were once about, and what they can do when it suits the track and themselves. Whilst "Pretension/Repulsion" just has the Gold Against The Soul-era tone and swagger which brought them more fans and alienated their original fan base.
Also hanging over this album is Ritchie Edwards - again, not really a surprise due to the use of his lyrics and the artwork of the album which is done by Jenny Saville who did the original artwork as well. It has been purposely designed as a tribute to him, and the last album he appeared on. So it becomes very hard to try to be objective about this depending on what side of the Edwards fan club you fall on. Yes there are moments I did not really enjoy - "Marlon J.D." just sort of plods from beginning to end in a sort of 80 rock way without hitting any really gear and "Doors Closing Slowly" seems to be trying to hard to be as dark as the lyrics. Sometimes when listening you wonder what Ritchie would have thought, and then it brings it into a bit of a focus.
This is because you have to try to listen to this with wondering what he would have thought of the album, as it is the band saying goodbye to that period of their life. Whilst the band have always tried to move forward, they have always had something over their shoulder turning them back. Once this album they tried to lay to rest the old Manic Street Preachers. In someways they did that by using the words of their friend and band mate - very respectfully as a whole, but in other ways it also brought into the light that they have become something else. It may not be to everyone's taste and maybe it is for the best because who wants to be the people they were 15 years ago, especially in their darkest moments. They have moved on and it is time we did too.
It is not an easy listen in place, but it is a well crafted piece of art much like The Holy Bible - and just like that album it will polarise people. Approach with caution if you are new to this band, and embrace with a dark heart once you know more, but not too often - too much of a bad thing can be as bad as too much of a good thing.
6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
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