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After 25 years as a band, Manic Street Preachers have earned their right as one of the Greatest British Bands of modern times. Every single album they release provides something new and something that fans will love. This 2010 album 'Postcards From A Young Man' was described as their 'one last shot at mass communication' by Nicky Wire and to instantly sum it up would be describe as their most 'pop, radio friendly' album they've done. It is completely different to their haunting previous album 'Journal For Plague Lovers' which had no singles released from it.
Track by track review:
01. (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love - A great opening to the album, this was the first single to be released from this campaign and although it isn't a bad song, I guess i was slightly dissapointed that they chose to release this as their lead single considering what it yet to come from the album. ITs by no means terrible, it's has a great chorus but the verses tend to let it down quite a bit. 7/10.
02. Postcards From A Young Man - The title track was the third, and final release from this album. Some fans would argue that this is A Design For Life (Mark II), however I don't really see the comparisons to it. Definatly one of the highlights from the album. 10/10.
03. Some Kind Of Nothingness - The first slower paced song comes up now and it is beautiful. It features a collaberation with Ian McCulloch and was the second single from the album. It was released around Christmas time and has that lovely Xmas-ssy type vibe and then the song builds up and ends with a gospel choir! Who would ever have thoguht the Manics would feature Gospel in their songs? . 10/10.
04. The Descent (Pages 1 & 2) - Strings! Oh how i've missed them. Another 'pop-ish' type song. Simmilar in many ways to 'Everything Must Go' regarding the instruments and the lyrics are cracking stuff ("This is my last decent, I'm hope i'm making sense, I've lost my last defence"). Again, 3 songs in a row that are worthy of 10/10.
05. Hazelton Avenue - When reading the album tracklisting before it was released this title made me the most curious over the rest of them. Again this song has a very simmilar 'vibe' to The Descent regarding the instruments. Another stunning song 10/10.
06. Auto-Intoxication - Now things take a different turning. The previous 5 tracks have all been songs that would have been perfect on the Radio for people to sing along to. However, it seems we have stepped back to their previous album 'Journal For Plague Lovers', although this song isn't as 'dark' as anything on that album. Personally, this song I can take or leave, I don't mind it and I know a lot of the fans love this track (many hardcore fans were dissapoitned when the Manincs announced that this would be their most 'poppy' album yet). 7/10.
07. Golden Platitudes - What can I say? I'm going to award this song the 'best song on the album'. This song had quite a buzz about it before the album came out so I was interested as to what it sounded like. And I wasn't dissapointed. A beautiful slow song with a great lyrics and again like Track 3 it features a Gospel Choir. Amazing. 10/10.
08. I Think I've Found It - The first five seconds of this song are like 'What The Hell?'. It's a mandola! It feels like i'm off on holiday! When they said they were doing a pop record, they weren't wrong. This is probably the poppiest thing on the record and the poppiest thing they have ever done! It would sound great on the radio and shows that the Manics aren't all about depressing rock music. 9/10.
09. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun - Ah. a classing Manic's rock song, I would describe this as a more 'catchier' version of 'The Masses Against The Classes'. A brilliant driving song with your windows down and the volume turned up! I think this would have made a great lead single and more likely to have achieve better success that 'It's Not War'. 9/10.
10. All We Make Is Entertainment - I don't know what to say about this song. I like it. It fits nicely on the album and ties in with the whole concept of the album. The best part is the "And the sun will keep on shining" bit. 8/10.
11. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever - Nicky Wire takes on the lead for this track and I know not many people like this, and to be honest, neither do i! 5/10.
12. Don't Be Evil - The final song on the album, I read this is about 'Google' or something but can't remember. Anyway, I like this song, it rounds the album off perfectly, it's pop and catchy. 10/10.
If you're a casual fan of the Manic Street Preachers and want to listen to some of their more commercial stuff then this is definatly the album for you. This collection of 12 songs fit perfectly together, unlike their previous albums every song on here is radio-friendly in some way or another. Including a Gospel Choir into two of their songs would have seemed unlikely several years ago but it really does fit together ont he two tracks. I would definatly reccomend this album to anyone who likes pop, rock with great melodies, strings and beautiful lyrics. If you're curious about the Manics and are starting to get into them then this is a great starting point. Nothing on this album is too heavy and it's the perfect album to sing along to in the car. I doubt the Manics will ever release anything as commerical as this again so treasure it if you're into this kind of stuff.
7 Tracks You Must Check Out:
1. Golden Platitudes
2. Hazelton Avenue
3. The Descent
4. I Think I've Found It
5. Postcards From A Young Man
6. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
7. Don't Be Evil
Welsh rockers the Manic Street Preachers have been threatening our ear drums since 1986, can you believe!? Eighteen years on from their mildly successful debuting album 'Generation Terrorist's the Manics are still an ever present on the British music scene, belting out stadium driven anthems and pop friendly hooks to customize such longevity and success. The original quartet led by James Dean Bradfield (Nott'm Forest fan) lead vocals and guitar, Nicky Wire, bass, backing vocals, Sean Moore, drums and percussion and the late Richey Edwards presumed deceased, whilst never been found, have amassed a wealth of support and become universally known throughout the world of music. Following the bizarre circumstances of Edwards's disappearance, the trio continued to walk the boards of success alone, belting out nine studio albums before the release of Postcards from a Young Man which came out this week September 20th 2010. A wave of punky, rock styled anthems, and driving riffs tabled with lyrics meeting depression, politics and loneliness have always given them an edge to their artistry, giving the listener something different from their contemporise. The Manics to date have amassed 42 singles, with "The Masses against the Classes" and "If you tolerate this your children will be next" both topping the charts, supported by a plethora of singles reaching the heights of the top 10. In my opinion 1996 became the Manics breakthrough year with the album "Everything must go" which peaked at number two in the UK charts, whilst lead single and one of their most influential hits to date 'Design for Life' peaking at number two and gaining them such credibility in an already over populated market. Fourteen years on brings us to their latest release, and unfortunately maybe one of their last, according to James Dean Bradfield himself, the album is "one last shot at mass communication" ...can the welsh boys still cut the mustard, or is it time to venture pastures new?!.
1. (It's Not War) Just the End of Love (3.32) - It's not War epitomises the Manics obvious sound in this rather joyous almost victorious lead and opening single. I don't think it reaches anthemic qualities, but it does build on you, it's powerful, electric and relentless, supported by a great radio friendly hook covered in glory by plenty of strings and guitar solo's throughout. Admittedly when this first ventured on to the radio airwaves I was hardly sold, in fact found it unmemorable, but the more and more I listen, I like, an added note the video features Anna Friel and Michael Sheen playing chess, and a rather amusing bespectacled James Dean Bradfield watching on. The opener is a lot friendlier and seemingly more positive than singles before it, which makes a pleasant change.
2. Postcards from a Young Man (3:39) - The title track and one of the last to be put on the album, again it has a positive vibe, it's in your face, uplifting and loud. It's again layered with strings and incessant drum lines, to a vocally more assured and near shouting Bradfield. The middle eight poses grandeur and gives an air to breath temporarily before more aggressive tones from Bradfield sweep you away in the moment. It's styled differently, an edge of rock mixed up with a little R& B tonics. Again, maybe this is another grower, but the melody is catchy enough, and it swings along beautifully until the end, where Bradfield's shouts get a little louder, to battle against a rather awful gospel choir, that kind of spoils the song, thankfully it only last seconds, for it to make a lasting impressive, good start to the album, I'm liking the happy vibes!
3 Some Kind of Nothingness (3:52) (feat. Ian McCulloch) - The guest vocals of McCulloch feature heavily as he and Bradfield trade lines, in a rather directive less effort, it has no distinct feature to focus on, it's just lingers and continues to a rather boring bland mix of over populated singing, that just drives towards the distance, without any inspirational change or melody. The sound is drowned out and gets complicated by the usage of pipe bands, an orchestra and the Royal Drummers, it gets confusing and a little annoying, one of the weaker efforts from the album, one to miss. 4 The Descent (Pages 1 & 2) (3:30) - The mood changes as we drop down to a mid-tempo affair, for The Descent, streaming with strings and a poky guitar line and booming beats from the drum, originally written as an acoustic track with a rhythmic feel, this bounds along jauntily, another joyous track that's not too imposing or forthright, much more an album filler, but it works really well, and mixes up the album a little.
5 Hazelton Avenue (3:27) - Hazelton Avenue brings us back to a more familiar sound, the combative, up-tempo shift, driven by the thriving guitar riffs, that compare to their most brightest of singles. It's has a bouncy feel, melodic at times almost melancholic with the near-lullaby feel. The infamous massive pop hook has the obvious radio appeal once more, and with the sweeping strings for added atmospheric pressure, it's a lovely little song, safe but assured. 6 Auto-Intoxication (3:52) - This glam-indie felt track is laden with sweet harmonies, evocative drum lines, sweeping string arrangements and spiky, angular guitar riffs. It's builds from an acoustic guitar riff that continues to build, it's an erotic, passionate affair that offers so much, recycled by the combative Piano chords. The chorus pulsates through Bradfield's passionate tones, it's loud, feverish and tension building, personally one of my favourite, really works and lends itself to the previous album in it's sound.
7 Golden Platitudes (4:28) - Majestic poetry, uplifting, victorious, reflective, so many emotions packed into just over fourth minutes of artistry. The atmosphere and dynamics of the album take a real shift here for Golden Platitudes as we reflect on the disappointments of the Labour government. Kicking off to a lonely Piano, before a gentle electric riff and joyous drums accompany the delicious delicate, scornful vocals of Bradfield which gently saunter on, with slender moments of yearning and aggression, it's really mixed and poignant, which build gentle progress throughout the tracked, backed by the gospel choir again, it's captivating and very powerful in an understated fashion. A Beatles-esque middle eight of la-la-la-la-la's by the choir just ignite the splendour further. An epic, and possibly one of my favourite all time Manics anthems. 10/10
8 I Think I Found It (3:10) - It seems like a settling song, reached a goal, happy with what they have. I Think I Found it, kicks off with a sumptuous long intro of frilly mandolins, whimpering in the sunlight, it's sets the scene beautifully for this melodic little number that vespers in and out of control which some varying driven riffs that pipe up now and again, to give it an edge of electricity. It's light on the ears, joyfully mundane, but the organ and wistful mandolins steal the sunshine here, very pretty, good job!. 9 A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun (3:43) - Classic sounding Manics rock song, full of swirling guitar solo's and joyful explosions of sound, marked by an array of shouting, screeching and melodic tones by Bradfield. It's a feverish little number, than develops menacingly. It's possibly of anthemic proportions, most definitely driven by some raucous riffs, and poky solo's from former Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Duff McKagan. Any Manic traditionalist will love this effort, back to what they are renowned for, top marks.
10 All We Make Is Entertainment (4:18) - Again an old school sound, featuring sounds from the 'Everything Must Go' era. It's trailblazed by furious guitar work, and another catchy radio friendly chorus and melody. Very triumphant once more as Bradfield reminisces over the past, what they've done and how they once tried to change the world with their music, but underneath it all, they are here to entertain. 11 The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever (3:42) - Nicky Wire actually takes over the singing here, in a rather odd little number, his voice is very different to James, very rough and it's almost slow enough to be talked than sung. I don't really like it, Sean Moore's trumpets and the adage of some ladies voice add some comfort during the chorus, but it's rather dreary and stumbles along aimlessly in the dark for me. 12 Don't Be Evil (3:18) - The album finishes with an angry attack on the global giants Google. It's angry, suggestive and in your face rock and roll, what the Manics inspire at. Fast paced finale, and the end to a pretty decent album that features inspiration from all corners of the career and more
What's always amazed me is the lack of respect the Manics have received over the years, to suggest they're nothing short of fantastic would be a travesty, longevity would support such a theory, but to me they have always come across as a 'nearly' band, which just seems wrong, with what they've distributed through the years. Again, I think Postcards from a Young Man will have the same limited radio air play appeal, and more commonly suited to the arena filled shows, which settles uneasy on me.
Blessed with Nicky Wire's thoughts and theories and backed up by the subtly adaptable tones of James Dean Bradfield the two work hand in hand, expertly so. The sounds have become polished and more mature over the years like you would expect, but they always come back to what they do best, perfect rock filled anthems, and friendly hooks to appease the masses, but now circled with more defining and interesting lyrics.
As the album suggests, it loosely themed about the past and present, the disillusioned peers and the expectancy of youth. A lot of reminiscing seems to take place, mostly on a personal nature I feel, but where Postcards differs from it's predecessors is the joyous nature it's applied with, it's significantly happy, even though it's still demonstrates about political betrayal and the state of the UK manufacturing industry, economy and the negative impulses the Internet has on society, but with an oddly optimistic flair.
Postcards, is largely what you would expect to find from a Manics album, glorious hooks, driven anthems, and beautiful lyrics, what this album offers more generously than before Is the continued use of some seriously good strings, and the accompaniment of choirs and orchestra's, but using the same dynamics which has brought them continued success over the years.
What the experts said ...... The Guardian: "As it plays, you're struck by the fact that no one else does anything like it: reason enough for the Manic Street Preachers' continued existence." 4/5
Clash "An unashamedly pop record and its chutzpah is staggering. Gospel choirs, soaring strings and choruses you could use for landmarks in a blizzard make this an astonishing listen" 8/10
Q : "Gargantuan melodies and florid elegance... still raging... their flame burns on" 4/5
If this is an attempt for mass communication, then I think it would fail, but I remain unconvinced anything they write would achieve such a status, not because they are not good enough, just they don't seem to be the darlings of the music media. However, as albums go, it's very good, not riding the same heights as 'Everything must go' but it packs its own punch, which a variety of epic songs such as 'Golden Platitudes' and 'Postcards from a Young Man'.
Would it be something I'd shout from the roof tops about? No, not really, I feel it would support a Best of album generously, already adding to such an amazing back catalogue of work. That's not to say I don't like the album, I really do, something just seems missing to make a lasting impression. Much better than average, but not world beating. Having said all that the album is new, and generally a good album grows on you, this may be the same, I'd recommend a listen to Golden Platitudes, my favourite single by far, if you like that then give the album a listen, any Manics fan will not be disappointed.
Amazon Price £7.99 (However it is new, so wait a while and I'm sure it will be reduced) A deluxe version is also avaliable.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 It's Not War Just The End Of Love
2 Postcards From A Young Man
3 Some Kind Of Nothingness - Manic Street Preachers & Ian McCulloch
4 Descent, The
5 Hazleton Avenue
6 Auto Intoxication
7 Golden Platitudes
8 I Think I Found It
9 Billion Balconies Facing The Sun, A
10 All We Make Is Entertainment
11 Future Has Been Here 4 Ever, The
12 Don't Be Evil