17 October 2013

Manic Street Preachers - Rewind The Film

The amount of fighting this album has caused can only be measured in noise.  I'm sure when I told Pete I was reviewing this, the toys were through from his house many miles away against my window. (Warning, this first part of the blog may contain sarcasm).  Basically we have all been looking forward to the new Manic Street Preachers album, hence why we are doing a look at the discography; now after my view of the woeful Lifeblood (cleverly linked their) I was a little bit worried I would carry on some of the feeling of that album towards this record.  After all, I have been known to hold grudges for too long in terms of music.  So with this album is the start of the third period of the Manic's career (the first being up to Richey Edwards’s disappearance, the second up to the release of their second best of 'National Treasure').  What also made me a little bit wary of it is that it is billed as both "a fully acoustic album" and "it related to the sedate coming of age that was 'This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours'.  So with this in mind, it is time to see what it has been released to the world.

Starting off this album is a duet with Lucy Rose called "The Sullen Welsh Heart" which would not be out of place on a Laura Veirs album, it is very nice and the lyrics are up to the usual sublime standard that we have came to expect from the Manics.  Coming slowly (there is hotly or fast in this album) is "Show Me The Wonder" which acted as the first single of the album; it is a joyful little song to the fun that is in the world with a little horn section going on and acoustic drumming, it shows that acoustic does not just mean down hearted.  Then we come to the title track of the album made with Richard Hawley who was told if he did not play on the song it would not make the album.  This could be the opening music to a 70's drama like 'Alfie', and it has a mournful soul that is hypnotizing; thank the deity that Hawley buckled and sang on it.

Then we have the trio of "Builder of Routines" which seems to be aiming for one of those soul moving moments in a fill when the European couple thrown together by circumstance are travelling throw the Alps to a new life which is still a mystery to the viewer; following is the last of the special guest appearances with Cate Le Bon on the dull "4 Lonely Roads".  It is honestly of those songs which has nothing really wrong with it, but is still dull as dishwater and I think it is Cate Le Bon on here that does it for me, she just sounds like a lifeless leaf and it makes the song feel longer than it actually is.  Thankfully the band follow it with "(I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline" which has traditional Japanese instruments and wistful yearning for being on the other side of the world.  It is a moment of beauty that makes you almost forget how uninspiring "4 Lonely Roads" is.

Following is the slow country strumming of "Anthem For A Lost Cause" which again has a horn section and JDB in his best crooner mood which is fine by me, very pleasant.  After this you have "As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin)" which sounds like it could be from an 80's rock star's solo album, or the sequel to "Walking In Memphis" by Marc Cohn; and ending this small trio is "3 Ways To See Despair" which is how a slow acoustic song should be done, it has a menace that drives the song and the lyrics are haunting as well. So for the last three song we open up with "Running Out Of Fantasy" which talks about how the world is running out of dreams that the singer can believe in, the lyrics are great but the music is just nice, no drama at all, just nice.

Then there is the stunning instrumental "Manorbier" with its stylistic of kilter opening and a welcome return to the better part of the acoustic experience for the Manics.  It is in the darker areas that this band excel, be it acoustic or electric and that will always be the case as we have seen time and time again; this finally gives way to "30-Year War" which is a story of the world against old boy network which always wins.  The lyrics are bitter and the music is driven and again shows that they know what they are doing when they have their mind on the job.  With little electronic touches every now and then it brings the album to a better conclusion than I was hoping for at one point.

So how has this adventure done overall?  Well, it was a lot better in places than I could have hoped for to be honest; when they get it right it is very good indeed, but when they get it wrong which happens in just under half the record it is a strain for me at least.  This could have been an excellent short album or a classic ep; instead it is just a meh album.  But it is still a lifetime and light-year span better than 'Lifeblood' and you have to applaud that they tried it - I am all for trying something new and when it worked it is brilliant.  Roll on next year with the electric sequel 'Futurology'.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

You can purchase the album here from Spotify

You can visit the Manic Street Preachers website

You can listen to the deluxe version of the album here - first 12 tracks are the proper album

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