Full disclosure. I adore The Manics. Have done for years. There was a slight wobble in the first part of this century with the not as great as you'd want 'Lifeblood' but with their new album, 'Futurology', the late period renaissance that truly kicked in with the embracing of Richey Edwards' final lyrics on 'Journal For Plague Lovers' continues apace. 'Futurology' is the louder, brasher, more antagonistic brother of last year's reflective 'Rewind The Film'. If their previous, mostly acoustic, work could be seen as a mellowing into mid life (despite the anger contained in some of Nick Wire's more biting lyrics) then this is a return to grandeur and energy. Not that you could call it a 'punk' album, we're not talking a move back to the rock of 'Generation Terrorists' or the splendid nihilism of 'The Holy Bible' - this has more in common with the shine and sheen of their commercial highpoint ' Everything Must Go' sprinkled with a layer of early Simple Minds' European futurism. And it's European futurism that defines the sound of the album, sparkling guitars (the sound of The Cure on 'The Next Jet To Leave Moscow'), glistening keyboards and impassioned vocals supporting themes of war and regret. No matter how much Nicky denies it you can't help but feel that 'Walk Me To The Bridge's sentiment of 'We smile at this ugly world, it never really suited you, old songs leave long shadows' and 'so long my fatal friend... still blinded by your intellect' scream of being inhabited by the ever present absence of Richey Edwards. Elsewhere it's defiance and ambition exemplified by "We'll come back one day, we never really went away. One day we will return, no matter how much it hurts. And it hurts." on the title track. Guests appear again as on the last album; Green Gartside's mellow velvet tones on 'Between The Clock And The Bed' and Nina Hoss on the wonderful 'Europa Geht Durch Mich' which reinforces the early (brilliant) Simple Minds influence in both sound and the appropriation of 'I Travel's 'Europe had a language problem' as this song's opening line. Hoss' German sung lines only add to the atmosphere. Obviously though, it's The Manics album. And it gets better with every single play. We may well be talking about their most successful work yet, twenty years into a career that was designed to implode after the first album.
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