Manic Street Preachers ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ – Review

22 Sep

Nicky Wire recently described Manic Street Preachers as the last survivors of Britpop, and I suppose he’s right, although I’d never really considered them a britpop band to begin with. There was something too rebellious, too excitable, too dangerous about The Manics that separated them from the often predictable Oasis, Blur or Pulp. If any band looked like they were going to implode at any moment it must surely have been them, but even after Richie’s disappearance they carried on releasing a steady stream of records whilst others faded away.

If you look at their output post Richie’s disappearance an odd trend presents itself – they have always released a bad album after a good one. After ‘This is My Truth Tell Me Yours” came the forgettable ‘Know Your Enemy’, then came the more interesting ‘Lifeblood’ which was followed by the tired sounding ‘Send Away The Tigers’. So after last year’s excellent ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’ I was half expecting this new release to be a non event – and true to form it is.

They have described ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ as their last shot at mass communication, therefore I thought it may contain songs in a similar vein to ‘A Design For Life’ and first single ‘It’s Not War – Just The End of Love’ certainly has a lot  in common with that classic, it just isn’t as good. Unfortunately every other song feels like an attempt to be that spectacular and without exception they fail. For some reason almost everything on here has been coated with the type of shmultzy over the top strings that are usually reserved for X Factor singles, the arrangements are sooo heavy-handed and excessive that it makes this an overwhelming listen. In fact all the excess takes me back to the last days of Britpop. If you close your eyes and listen to ‘Hazelton Avenue’ you could easily be in the mid 90’s again, and it’s not a pleasant sensation.

This isn’t an entirely lost cause, if you can get past the over the top production you will discover a few good melodies and well thought out lyrics. ‘Golden Platittudes’ is nice and the title track is classic Manics – they are still great song writers, they just haven’t conveyed that well enough here. So back to Nicky’s opening statement about this being their ‘last chance’ basically to storm the charts – is this what they think is popular right now? Ten, fifteen years ago I could have seen a few of these songs being hits but we live in a different age now where the minimalism of The Drums and The XX is cool, even the charts are dominated by very streamlined pop singles from Tine Tempah and professor Green. All this clatter and excess just doesn’t cut it at the moment, and as a result ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ sounds very dated. So yeah, after an excellent record comes this and I fully expect whatever they do next to be much, much better.

4.5/10


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