Album Review: Manic Street Preachers - Futurology

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In the post year 2000 world of total social media connectivity, regionalism has certainly lost it's power both in business and in the arts.

For a band, releasing music is as simple as putting something on Youtube or Soundcloud and having people from either hemisphere instantly enjoy it.

Early last century it was a different story.

Every different region (even within America) had it's own sound, story and musical "scene." You could even argue that existed through the 1980s, with the "grunge" sound of the Pacific Northwest, the "hardcore punk" sound of Southern California and Washington DC and the "country rock" of the Southwest.

But after the last few decades it seems that different genres of music could now be appreciated by just about anyone and in nearly any country throughout the world.

That's why the Manic Street Preachers are a different story. Arguably one the most popular and successful rock groups in the British Isles, the Manics hardly tour in America and haven't released a physical album in America in nearly ten years. What kept this phenomenal band a secret to Americans? Their story is certainly of interest to anyone slightly interested in rock and roll. The lads started out as glammed up bad asses, somewhat like a Sunset Strip hair band with intelligent, Marxist lyrics and a hunger for controversy.

Controversy found them after outspoken guitarist/lyric writer Richey Edwards went missing in 1995 after years of depression, eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Richey's lyrics on the first three Manic's album present a twisted, morbid treatise on the dark side of man.

Their 1994 album The Holy Bible's lyrics were certainly a cry for help to anyone listening. These are the kind of lyrics that would make Morrissey say "lighten up!"

After Richey went missing the Manics regrouped as a three piece band and went on to achieve even a greater level of fame. A lot of the darkness left with Richey and in his place came a Phil Spector-ish embrace of bombast and a more pop style of songwriting. Nothing, not even death, could stop the Manic Street Preachers.

They finished off the 90s as easily the most successful of BritPop bands. While Oasis and Blur had struggled to keep it together, the Manics somehow surpassed them.

All of this while being basically unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

Was it purposeful? The left-leaning lyrics a tad too "wordy" for Americans? With their decision of not releasing music in America and rarely touring the States it seems as though it might be what the Manics want.

Their brand new album Futurology finds the Manic Street Preachers as bombastic as ever, with huge, wide screen anthems and arrangements straight out of a summer blockbuster movie. "Take Me To The Bridge" sounds as if singer James Dean Bradfield is singing about his long lost friend Richey (who was declared dead by his family in 2008) set to an uplifting wall of sound. Scritti Politti mastermind Green Gartside takes lead vocals for the gorgeous anthem "Between The Clock And The Bed." Their brash, metallic sound of the early 90s returns for the absolutely terrifying "Europa Geht Durch Mich." All in all the boys are in fine form.

Futurology follows last year's more somber Rewind The Film album. I joked to my rock critic friends that Rewind The Film was "pastoral." Then I clarified to them that "pastoral" is my rock critic word for "boring." But Futurology is a welcome return to the soccer stadium sounds they did so well in the 1990s.

I give it 3 and 1/2 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

If you want to learn more about Manic Street Preachers, you can hear me do a complete track-by-track dissection of their 1994 album The Holy Bible on The Dig Me Out Podcast which premier's Tuesday July 8th.

Hear it here:

Manic Street Preachers Official Website: