Let me set out my stall: I’m a Manic Street Preachers fanatic. They’re a band that aren’t concerned or made anxious by reviews, and make music because they love it. I’m not going to go comparing this to The Holy Bible, as I realise that after Richey’s tragedy, the band had to evolve. And so they did, in to a much more ‘poppy’ band that that could connect to a larger audience. And on this album they have succeed in a way they never have before.
Postcards From A Young Man is the 10th studio effort from the Manics. Now, most bands on album number 10 would have lost their drive, lost their daring side and just become comfortable and mundane with the success they had already achieved, content with pleasing their fans but not making their heads explode with new ideas and new sounds. But not the Manics, they may not have that youthful ‘fuck the establishment’ attitude anymore, but this is the bands greatest triumph post Richey (excluding the Richey written Journal For Plague Lovers). It’s a tour de force in massive song writing. With every track featuring a string quartet if not an entire orchestra, the sound is blissfully vast. James Dean Bradfield’s guitar still brings a tsunami of noise to the mix and his voice is as forceful, yet gentle as ever. Sean Moore’s drumming is more controlled and to the point than ever, but still becomes unhinged at moments, to a point of ear drum shattering loudness. And as for Nicky Wire’s lyrics, they are on a par with that of Send Away The Tigers, which are the best he has written single handed. Album opener ‘(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love’, is also the first single from the record and is a raging success of a love song, the best the trio have written since ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’.
The biggest triumph on this album is ‘Golden Platitudes’. The song starts with a piano solo and Bradfield swooning. The simple arrangement of guitar, drums and bass in the verses are contrasted with extravagant string sections and a choir as the songs backdrop for the chorus. For ‘I Think I’ve Found It’ everything goes a bit renaissance Italy when the mandolin is broken out as the main noise maker, but the reality of the sound is a lot more pleasing than the contemplation. One of the stand outs is, surprisingly sung by Wire. In the past his vocal songs have felt more like an unwanted necessity. But here it feels like a lot more than that, ‘The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever’ is a song seemingly about a middle aged person dipping their toe back into youthful life but realising it’s time to move on “Make yourself pretty, Just for one last time, No one will ever know, You ever left your prime”. The song also contains a Godfather III reference that did have me smiling. Now this wouldn’t be a true Manics album if there wasn’t at least one dud. This album is a huge pile of controlled, epic ‘cheese’ and it works, but not on ‘Hazleton Avenue’. It goes a little too far into ballady pop song territory and is a little lost in the doldrums along with ‘Cardiff Afterlife’ and ‘Born A Girl’ from previous albums.
The Manic Street Preachers have put together an album that charges by and at times leaves you feeling as if you’ve been hit by a pack of charging rugby players or as if you’ve just fallen down a mine shaft (honestly the only two Welsh references I could think of!). Attempting to get as much radio air time as possible and get back in the minds of the public after the not-so mainstream Journal For Plague Lovers, they have given themselves the potential to release a few belting singles that could easily match the success of any ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ or ‘A Design For Life’.
From Rhys Morgan.