Thursday, November 25th, 2010
All We Make Is Entertainment
Review of Manic Street Preachers’ Postcards From A Young Man
Dean ChalkeyMost bands with longevity – if they’re lucky – have a career arc that starts with a good to great debut and trends upwards towards a critical and hopefully commercial peak – simultaneously, if fortune wills it – before entering a decline that’s hopefully gradual enough so as to not really be noticed at the time. Cap it off with a late-career bounce and/or best-of comp and maybe quit while you’re still ahead, overall. Until the reunion, anyways.
Manic Street Preachers threw that out the window before even their first album, declaring their intention to sell 20 million copies of their debut and then break up at the height of their powers. And while this didn’t happen, their narrative did end up considerably twistier than most – release successful debut, endure mandatory difficult second record, rebound with critically acclaimed effort, lose chief songwriter to mysterious circumstances, regroup for their biggest commercial and critical success, release follow-ups of diminishing quality before respectively levelling out and then surprise everyone by deliberately trying to recreate the spirit of album three using lyrics left behind by the departed songwriter and have the results, rather than exploitative, be phenomenal.
This is where the Manics found themselves with last year’s Journal For Plague Lovers, a deliberate revisit to The Holy Bible built around the words of their lost member Richey Edwards. And just as that record deliberately paralleled their third record, its follow-up Postcards From A Young Man looks to album four, the massive in every sense Everything Must Go as a reference. The dry, Albini production values of Journal are traded in for grandiose anthems laden with strings and choirs that offer no apologies for reaching for the stars. It’s a reminder that as good as the Manics were at being emphatically, viciously angry, they were arguably better at being starry-eyed romantics, and it’s that side of them that is on display with this effort. But unlike Everything, which for its widescreen staging was still downcast in tone, what with dealing with Edwards’ disappearance, Postcards casts far fewer shadows. Granted, this also gives it less emotional heft, but it’s far from empty calories. There’s still plenty of dense lyricism, huge choruses, fiery guitar solos, a guest spot/croak from Ian McCulloch and an affirmation that while the Manics took a mid-career breather, they’re once again at the top of their game.
Even though the release of Journal and accompanying tour were supposed to mark the Manics’ return to the North American marketplace, Postcards has yet to receive a domestic release. Until that happens, any hope that the further Stateside shows the band promised last year will materialize remain just wishful thinking. Or maybe they’ll wait for the next record – for all the hubbub surrounding the “last attempt at mass communication” rhetoric that accompanied Postcards and whether it meant it would be the Manics’ final record, according to this interview with Nicky Wire at NME, the band are already writing their next record, have given it a working title of 70 Songs Of Hatred And Failure and are calling it an exercise in “pure indulgence”. So it’s a revisit to Know Your Enemy, then? Bring it on.
Note that the below MP3 does not appear on Postcards, but is a period-correct and was given away in conjunction with the promotion of Postcards.
Trip-hop survivors Morcheeba, with original vocalist Sky Edwards back in the fold, will be touring North America next year in support of their latest Blood Like Lemonade and will be at The Phoenix on February 20. Tickets $32.50 in advance.
NME reports that Noah & The Whale have given their third album a name – Last Night On Earth – and that it’ll be out in March of next year. Presumably before they roll into town for a show at the Mod Club on March 24, tickets $17.50 in advance.
Exclaim reports on the super-fancy and then some 20th anniversary edition of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, due out on March 7 of next year. For those who want to be free to do what they want to do, who want to be free to ride, and want to be free to ride their machines without being hassled by The Man, and who want to get loaded, and who want to have a good time. And that’s what they’re gonna do. They’re gonna have a good time. They’re gonna have a party!