12 July 2014

Manic Street Preachers - Futurology

The band that caused a few of the team to take a leave of absence (warning - this sentence my contain sarcasm).  Last year when we did a look at the band's full discography, it took its toll on the team; a few of the members are still in a medical ward for musical typing cramps as we speak. However, the band have released the companion album to last year's disappointing (yet brave) 'Rewind The Film' (cleverly linked here) with 'Futurology'.  Now I am not going to lie here, some of the promotion work that has been done for this album is a little meh - for instance being on the 'One Show' on UK channel BBC1 with sun glasses at night & indoors (you are not in your 20's or on the youth culture show!!!!) and the cover is not exactly eye grabbing either.  It feels cold and empty, it does not look optimistic as the band has claimed the album to be.  But this is all a reaction before the album has even played a note. All the leading press reviews have been very complimentary about this release have been very good so far, but that does not mean that we will be.  So it is time to see if this is the better of the twins created by the Manics....

Starting off with the title track "Futurology" the band have not delved into 'The Holy Bible' territory (cleverly linked here), it has more in common with 'Everything Must Go' (again, linked here) and 'This Is My Truth...' (yet another link!!!) to be honest.  It is not the primal beast that some MSP fans will be hoping for; this is a very good thing.  The primal band was lost years ago and whilst it still resurfaces from time to time, it is also good to see the songwriters back again.  It is an interesting and understated opening track, very subtle with a hidden hook in the chorus that drives the song along with an almost oriental sound to the guitars.  "Walk Me To The Bridge" is another classic in waiting.  The song is obviously going to be seen as a song about the missing Richey Edwards, it is very easy to make take that impression to be honest.  The band themselves have denied this and they have stated that it is really about the possibility of leaving the band itself (with the band being the fatal friend).  I can see what they mean, but I can also see why people read more into the song; I can also see why it was the first single off the album, it is a great song and will be a firm addition to their live set as well.  With an 80's indie feel in places, it just has that difference which takes it apart from many of the so called chart 'hits' that are being played on the radio today.

"Let's Go To War" continues the almost indie disco theme here, but with a slight Middle Eastern twist to the music here.  The disco feel is very much at the forefront on this number, it is not your straight up rock classic that would have been on home with 'Send Away The Tigers' (....linked)...., it is a strange song which does not quite make me as excited as the first two songs; yet I am not hating it at the same time.  "The Next Jet To Leave Moscow, again it is the more polished Manics here.  Featuring Cian Ciaran (keyboard player of Super Furry Animals) the song is to the point and very pleasant, also the lyrics are dripping with little barbs to catch out the more delicate listeners - don't expect it to make an appearance on the radio anytime soon.  The song (and to most of the album to be honest) by the new wave of popular American indie band (i.e. War On Drugs, Death Cab For Cutie, etc).  It also has one of the sweetest little solos that the band has unleashed for many years.  A very interesting number which gives way to "Europa Geht Durch Mich" which includes vocals from Nina Hoss (a German actress), it comes across as a hybrid between Goldfrapp, Rammstein and The Hives.  It is another stomping track that does not rely on the Manic's punk dynamics of old, something that might have some fans in dismay. 

"Divine Youth" is another collaborative effort with Georgia Ruth (Welsh Harp player) taking the main vocals on the song.  The 80’s heavy keyboards on the song contrast with the gentle vocal delivery and make the song slightly awkward in places.  If the sound was slightly different, it could have been an understated classic; however it is a track out of place with itself and should have been on 'Rewind The Film' (link above) instead. First disappointment of the album right there. "Sex, Power, Love & Money" is much better from the Manic's.  It is still very heavy on the keyboard, but the glam punk is in the mix as well.  It has a fun feeling about it, but the political lyrics are still on show here, just to show that they have not lost that sense of anger at the establishment.  "Dreaming a City (Hughesovka)" is an instrumental track that seems to sum this album up for me fully and I will go into greater details about that in my summary at the end.  For now, I have to say the track itself is decent but it is also a strange tribute to Daft Punk in someways.  Following on is "Black Square" which starts with a distant announcement and wooden chimes in the breeze.  The song itself is a strange beast again (another running theme of the album); it goes from gentle heart of the fan base and could easily be "Ocean Spray" part two.  It is not an unlikeable song, just another piece that is forgettable again after a while.

"Between The Clock And The Bed" is the last song on the album to feature a guest artist with help from Green Gartside from Scritti Politti.  I cannot think of a partnership that works so well in many years, it is so 80's that it hurts and it is a brilliant piece of art pop that I have heard from both camps in many years.  It is not the most catchy on the album, but it is the best song by a country mile.  Following on is the bass intro of "Misguided Missile" which wins song title of the album.  The song itself is another ok tune, not a classic by any stretch of the imagination; but it is in keeping with the 80's/new era American indie theme of the record.  "The View From Stow Hill", this is another song which would have been much better on 'Rewind The Film' but it is better than quite a lot of that album.  But on this album, it is not quite right; it feels like it is at a right angle to the rest of the records.  It is a case of a great song on the wrong record here.  Ending the album is "Mayakosky" which brings a bizarre and interesting conclusion.  A mostly instrumental (apart from a small section), it just throws a load of sounds to the wall and tries to see what sticks.  It feels like it would be a fun to see live, but it is a weird track to end the album.

This album is both brilliant and frustrating at the same time.  I can see why all the mainstream press love it; it is much better than 'Rewind The Film' and very easy on the ear. It is a very polished record and some of the tunes could have been magnificent; you will not that I said 'could have been'.  The problem is that most of the songs are very short and don't have time to breath, also when the tracks are given time to breath they just get confused between being a rock song and an 80's montage - biggest case in point is "Dreaming a City (Hughesovka)" (told ya I would come back to it). That song shows everything that is right and wrong about this record perfectly. It is stuck between equally strong versions of the Manics trying to be a mix of the best pieces of the two without any of the good points of either.  They are so focused on the latest sounds and retro moments of the 80’s that they are not looking after what the Manic Street Preachers should be; they are show stealers not dedicated followers of fashion.  Now it is not a bad album, it is a decent record; but it could have been so much better as well.  With that said, it is still better than 'Lifesblood'.

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

Top Track -Between The Clock And The Bed

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the band's website on this link

You can listen to the album on Spotify here (it is the deluxe version of the album)

Here is a link to the album for our Deezer users (again the deluxe version)

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