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Manic Street Preachers - Resistance is Futile (Album Review)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

After dragging themselves out of the doldrums with 2007’s ‘Send Away The Tigers’, Manic Street Preachers released a string of superb records that were often brave, creatively single-minded and indicative of a band still bursting with ideas. But what goes up must come down. Their new LP, ‘Resistance is Futile,’ may offer a return to their anthemic mid-’90s sound, but it’s a hit and miss affair that sees a winning run finally come to an end.

Over the course of their 32 year career, the Manics have regularly ventured into unexpected territory before inevitably retreating to familiar waters. After two left-field albums in 2013’s beautifully sparse ‘Rewind The Film’, and the following year’s European love letter ‘Futurology’, it’s no surprise that ‘Resistance is Futile’ finds them back in radio-friendly mode.

This was possibly influenced, at least in part, by the trio performing ‘Everything Must Go’ in its entirety on a tour that marked the record’s 20th anniversary.

Whether a conscious decision or not, it’s an appropriate way to present songs focused on the past, memory, mortality and the role art plays in helping us endure our increasingly fractured experience. They also adopted this style when Richey Edwards disappeared, using their music to pull them through a traumatic loss.

Some outstanding moments here recall the bittersweet days when they gatecrashed Britop’s back-slapping party. With its monster backing vocals and existential rumination, People Give In is an epic call to persevere that’s like A Design For Life bursting out of a music box. International Blue, meanwhile, features a vintage James Dean Bradfield fret-skipping lick that splices together Australia and Motorcycle Emptiness, and Distant Colours, which could a killer deep cut from ‘Everything Must Go’, is a wry, anthemic dissection of a Brexiteer’s motivations.

At other times, however, recalling past tracks highlights how average some of these songs are. Dylan & Caitlin, a duet with The Anchoress, suffers because it evokes both Your Love Alone is Not Enough and Little Baby Nothing without ever threatening to match the soaring power of either. It is representative of an album where quality control, both from song to song and within a song, often fails to match recent standards.  

At times, it’s like superb ideas have been thrown together with ones that are nowhere near good enough. Broken Algorithms is a mess because Bradfield can’t crowbar Nicky Wire’s verbose, albeit topical, lyrics into a coherent, memorable tune, while too many choruses underwhelm and fail to provide the indelible magic this style of music demands. Vivian has sweet and eloquent verses that segue into a dreadfully bland refrain, In Eternity’s payoff is fair to middling and Sequels of Forgotten Wars’ plodding bridge and hook sap the tune of its promising momentum.

Wire’s lyrics, though, are consistently empathetic, adding thematic cohesion to proceedings as he pays tribute to musicians, photographers, poets and painters, while also meditating on grace under pressure, resolve and fortitude. It’s a shame the music doesn’t always convey this as well as Liverpool Revisited does. A stirring salute to the families of the 96 Hillsborough victims and their eventual triumph over the establishment, it’s also infectiously melodic.

The Manics are allowed the occasional misfire after all the gold dust they’ve created over the years. ‘Resistance is Futile’ isn’t a bad album as much as it is frustratingly uneven, but for the first time since 2005’s ‘Lifeblood’ your finger will be hitting the skip button a lot more often than you’d like.

Manic Street Preachers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed April 25 2018 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Fri April 27 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Arena Birmingham
Sat April 28 2018 - MANCHESTER Arena
Tue May 01 2018 - LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru - The Arena
Wed May 02 2018 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Fri May 04 2018 - LONDON SSE Arena, Wembley
Sat May 05 2018 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Tue June 19 2018 - LONDON Royal Festival Hall

Click here to compare & buy Manic Street Preachers Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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