The opening eponymous track from the Manic Street Preachers’ twelfth studio album serves as a perfect encapsulation of its underlying mood and purpose
The opening eponymous track from the Manic Street Preachers’ twelfth studio album serves as a perfect encapsulation of its underlying mood and purpose. It lays down a marker for the new direction that this krautrock-tinged, precocious yet self-embodying record sees the Welsh rockers heading in.
The initial five notes of distorted synth immediately highlight the newly added electronic elements running through the records 13 tracks, and the roared refrain of “we’ll come back one day/ we never went away” smartly echoes the ‘back to the future’ theme that is in such antithesis to 2013’s Rewind the Film.
For this is the greatest success of Bradfield and Co’s latest offering. In Futurology the middle-aged trio manage to sustain a sense of freshness of sound even at this late stage of their career, and yet the songs still have that same feeling of politically-charged, rebellious rock ‘n’ roll of 1992’s Generation Terrorists and 1994’s The Holy Bible.
The second track (and single), ‘Walk Me To The Bridge,’ knowingly adheres to earlier entries to the Manics’ canon with the line “old songs leave long shadows” before bursting into a typically anthemic chorus, supercharged by a fine Bradfield guitar riff that evokes images of a Duran Duran-sound-tracked eighties wedding, whilst retaining more than enough dignity.
Definitely a track to be sang “loud at the indie disco.”
Gratifyingly rumbling rhythm section
‘Let’s Go To War,’ described by Nicky Wire as a “nice marching song” (and it is just that), ends the opening three-song-salvo with a chillingly melancholic guitar line that could’ve been plucked right out of the Addams Family, and a gratifyingly rumbling rhythm section from Wire and Moore.
It also bears witness to an archetypal Wire-ism, haranguing the government’s use of the proletariat in their overseas wars – “working class skeletons/ lay scattered in museums.”
Perhaps the most defining aspect of Futurology is its intense European fascination, never exemplified better than in tracks, ‘The Next Jet to Leave Moscow’ and the Nina Hoss featuring ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich.’
Hoss purrs delectably throughout the latter, joining Bradfield in sticking a collective two-fingers up to Mr Farage throughout a defiant rallying cry of “European skies, European desires/ European roads, European hopes.”
There’s something rather pompously satisfying in the thought of tens of thousands of inebriated revellers at festivals up and down the country this summer, unwittingly joining in with the Manics’ Europhile-singsong, achieving more than UKIP could in a lifetime of campaigning.
Hoss is not the only collaborator to grace Futrology’s cover either. In a theme that began with 2013’s Rewind the Film, and was carried over to this latest offering many give the band a helping hand, including Welsh harpist, Georgia Ruth Williams, who croons mysteriously and beautifully like a mermaid fresh from a J.M. Barrie lagoon throughout ‘Divine Youth.’
While Scritti Politti frontman, Green Gartside, cantillates over a brilliantly flippant bassline in the Radiohead-esque ‘Between the Clock and the Bed.’
Brilliantly brutal rocker
Another standout is ‘Sex, Power, Love and Money,’ a brilliantly brutal rocker a la Generation Terrorists-era Manics, which includes a squealing solo that sounds like Bradfield had to strangle it out of the guitar’s very neck, along with one of the most anthemic refrains of the band’s entire canon.
But it is the album’s two instrumental takes that showcase the Preachers at their mercurial best. Closer ‘Mayakovsky,’ which opens with a tongue-in-cheek reference to Ringo Starr, is a three-minute melange of intricately woven guitar harmonies, crowd-moving bass thumpings and Kraftwerk-inspired sonic witchery that slowly fades out to the sound of Nina Hoss’ repeated continental whisperings.
Side two opener, ‘Dreaming a City (Hugheskova),’ showcases all that is great about Futurology – its innovative, Simple Minds-influenced experimentalism, Bradfield’s brilliantly melodic guitar lines, Wire and Moore’s spot-on rhythmic intricacies, and above all, its ability to perfectly fuse the freshness of newly-covered musical ground with the triumphant feeling of classic Manics rock.
Futurology is not without its weaknesses of course, ‘Black Square’ and ‘The View from Stow Hill’ are little more than filler, and there are moments (albeit few and far between) where Bradfield and Wire’s desire to get their point across conflicts with the coherence of a song’s structure, as on the schizophrenic ‘Sex, Power, Love and Money,’ but these are minor flaws on an otherwise brilliant record.
It is not, as Simon Price would have you think, a perfect masterpiece, but then can any album claim such an accolade? What Futurology is, however, is the best Manics record since 1996’s Everything Must Go, and perhaps one of their best ever.
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