Manic Street Preachers – Postcards from a Young Man

September 15, 2010 by  

Since their birth in 1986, the Manics have been voicing people’s opinions by utilising their working class origins to protest against the faults of society. In the process they’ve been making a stand for the public by blending old school socialism with punk rock and heavy metal. Add to this their memorable and incendiary guitar anthems, which cover alienation, despair and boredom, they have clearly made themselves the people’s band.

Their successes were mainly due to the lyrical prowess of their late guitarist Richey Edwards, who is thought to of committed suicide in 1995. He was also the bands enigmatic figure and he marked them out as not just another average rock band, but one of the greats.

Since the loss of Richey their musical output has produced some very average albums, such as Know Your Enemy and 2004’s Lifeblood. There are in short two bands; Manics MK1, the band at their most creative and impressive, who produced albums such as the acclaimed ‘Everything Must Go’ and the classic LP ‘The Holy Bible’ and then there is the Manics MK2, which are the Manics after Richey’s passing and arguably a band that has become more commercial.

Last year’s Journal for Plague Lovers got the band back on track. The whole of the album consisted of Richey’s lyrics and although there were no singles on the album it was critically acclaimed.

Fast-forward to today, the band have a renewed confidence and are keen to move forward as well as remind people what adhered them to the band prior to the post-Richey years. However, the pretext of the album is this is their ‘one last shot at mass communication’ as Nicky Wire stated to NME. The band claimed they were going to go pop and produce radio hits, which doesn’t bode well for their credibility. Although, this could all be a bluff; they may be retreating to their former band status to prove their relevance on their tenth release.

First track ‘(Its not war)…’ is in effect the albums call to arms. Bradfield’s punky style vocals are pushed to the fore while strings swell in the background. It’s unashamedly pop and almost sounds like it was taken from Queen’s songbook. Although the chorus is melodious it takes away any actual lyrical context, as the song drowns in heavy production, which leads to a big start but not necessarily a memorable one.

Title track ‘Postcards’, borrows the riffs from ‘Design of Life’ and its verse flows in the same way said song did – it could easily be a retread. ‘Some Kind of Nothingness’ repeats this trick, sounding like ‘If You Tolerate This’ but with an orchestral and gospel backing, which sounds pretty but even the addition of Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch can’t save it from being just an average track. There is a sense of nostalgia and maybe that is the point, to serve as a reminder to former material.

‘The Descent’ reeks of lyrical incompetence, with its almost marching band backing whilst Bradfield states ‘this is my last decent I hope I’m making sense’, which does the complete opposite. The realisation is the Manics aren’t concerned with making political sentiments but are more focussed on creating overblown pop moments.

‘Auto intoxication’ moves Bradfield’s vocals up a notch with a touch of reverb and the chord changes are vintage Manics, and quickly it becomes an all out rock song with no orchestra to steal its thunder. However, ‘Golden Platitudes’ and the pedestrian like ‘I Think I found’ don’t do them any favours. Fortunately, ‘A Billion Balconies gets the band back on track, with them lyrically riling against the media, complete with riffs, a continuous bassline and a great chorus – truly Manics at their best. ‘All We Make is Entertainment’ continues their good form with punky vocals and triumphant heavy riffs. It’s a reminder of what the Manics represent – the people’s band.

As far as being an album that shows progression it doesn’t succeed, but it also at times represents a love letter to former glories and if this tenth release should be their last it’s a fitting reminder of what a great band they used to be.

[rating:3]


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