Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Album review: MANIC STREET PREACHERS - Rewind The Film

Highlights: This Sullen Welsh Heart, 4 Lonely Roads, As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin), 30 Year War

If there’s such a thing as a proper Manic Street Preachers fan, that’s not me. Richey Edwards was (is that a ‘was’?) an intriguing individual, but I don’t see him as a personal hero. I do enjoy an odd Nicky Wire interview, but most of his lyrics are wasted on me or else leave me cold. There’s no question that The Holy Bible is a great LP and I do think 2009’s Journal For Plague Lovers was a remarkable comeback, but the ugly truth is that if my iPod had space for just one Manics-associated album, it would have to be James Dean Bradfield’s The Great Western from 2006.

The Great Western. How in God’s name can an intelligent pop classic like that be so underrated? Big melodies, big hooks – every second makes you feel that Bradfield was no longer restrained by Wire’s lyrics (no offence there) and must have experienced much-needed liberation writing and playing all that. 

The good news is that Rewind The Film seems to inhabit a similar world.

The album has been described as the band's most personal statement. True: political concepts barely appear in any of these songs (other than the closing “30 Year War”), which is a nicer change than many could imagine. It’s a very tuneful, beautifully crafted collection of anthems and ballads that often coexist in one song. “This Sullen Welsh Heart” is worthy of any Manic Street Preachers classic. It may seem too soft, but it has the sort of powerful, articulate melody Bradfield does so well on a good day. The sweet, short, Cate Le Bon-sung “4 Lonely Roads” is another understated triumph. As is the solemn, slow-burning title track. Only the rather lengthy instrumental “Manorbier” should have remained an outtake.

Few songs here scream ‘greatest hits’ at you, but my overall feeling is that it’s a very satisfying late-period album by this Welsh band. They don’t want to set the world on fire, not anymore, they just want to release a few great albums. I don’t know what a proper Manic Street Preacher fan would say to that, but count me in. Also, a solo follow-up from Bradfield would be nice.


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