❉ The Manics haven’t rocked this hard in years, writes Eoghan Lyng.
Where Rewind The Film (2013) and Futurology(2014) sought for re-invention, Resistance Is Futile (2018) sees the Welsh trio in more reflective mood. Distant Colours, a rare instance of James Dean Bradfield writing the lyrics instead of bassist Nicky Wire, potently asks “Are we living in the past?”. Given that their debut release Generation Terrorists came out twenty six years ago, this is a pertinent question.
It’s one that can be answered quickly; Manic Street Preachers are very much living in the present, and while this is a slighter album to Futurology, Resistance has enough spark to maintain interest in the band’s musical trajectory. They haven’t rocked this hard in years; Broken Algorithms opens with the driving drums of a seventy heavy metal record, Bradfield ferocious in stadium delivery (he may not be able to hit the high notes of The Holy Bible, but there’s no lack of enthusiasm and effort). International Blue (the band’s proclaimed spiritual successor to Motorcycle Emptiness) is a song destined to be a live indie favourite, Bradfield’s spiral playing echoing the guitar theatrics of eighties Slash (which is fitting, given that the Manics are set to support Guns N’Roses on an upcoming European tour). People Give In, grandiose strings included, sounds like the Manics are writing to the many Elbow fans who frequent their gigs, Sean Moore playing the drums with the dynamism of a jazz orchestra rather a rock band.
Dylan and Caitlin is a nice component of the band’s ballad remit, Catherine Anne Davies of The Anchoress duets with Bradfield with much of the virility Traci Lords brought to Little Baby Nothing. The third single released from the album (after International Blue and Distant Colours), this is the strongest of the four, the impending Liverpool Revisited the least successful, less Beatles flavoured, more quasi Herman and The Hermits muzak.
Superficial optimism is, thankfully, abandoned thereon, The Left Behind (with Wire on vocals) is a particularly strong example of nihilism, the band who once upset Top of The Pops with balaclavas as paintedly downbeat as they’ve ever been. Sequels To Forgotten Wars tells of “deception”, “dreams no more” and “deadly kisses” is the album’s most overtly political track (despite Wire’s claims he could never write an anti-Brexit/Trump song), and it’s one likely to make airwaves; Bradfield’s on top form here.
There are moments of sub-par quality too; Hold Me Like Heaven sounds like an MOR eighties track and has as much musical unimagination and Vivian joins the execrable Liverpool Revisited as a bland track unworthy of a b-side let alone a single. But there’s energy to this album too, as the Berlin Bowie-esque track In Eternity upends with synth sounds and musical innovation; though he has often claimed he could barely play a note when he joined the band, In Eternity features one of Wire’s more imaginative bass lines, funky in sound, melodic in delivery.
Resistance is no This Is My Truth, Now Tell Me Yours or Everything Must Go, but in many ways it doesn’t have to be. Thirteen albums into your career, and the Manics still have something to offer the world. And that’s something.
❉ Manic Street Preachers – ‘Resistance is Futile’ released 6 April 2018, Columbia Records.