April 12, 2018 Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile (Album Review)
After a four-year hiatus, the longest of their career, Manic Street Preachers are back with Resistance is Futile, which arrives on Friday, April 13, 2018 thanks to Columbia Records.
Never strangers to controversy or gossip, the Manics – James Dean Bradfield (lead vocals, guitar, and, keyboards), Nicky Wire (bass guitar, piano, vocals, and guitar), and Sean Moore (drums, percussion, trumpet, and vocals) – teased the album for almost a year, announcing November 2017 that a release date had been scheduled for the following April. In the meantime, a Documentary, Escape from History, aired in Europe, tracking the movements of the band starting with and including 1994’s The Holy Bible and wrapping up with their next album, the wildly successful Everything Must Go from 1996. This period of time includes the disappearance of chief Lyricist Richey Edwards, who remains missing today.
The rest of 2017 was filled with a special edition of Send Away the Tigers, first released ten years prior, before a “surge of creativity and some old-school hard work” allowed the band to quickly write and record Resistance is Futile. The band also took the time to celebrate the album’s completion by revealing their slot in support of Guns N’ Roses during their upcoming summer tour.
On paper, the band may be setting a bleak stage with the title Resistance is Futile and its fatalist opener “People Give In,” but as always, the band manages to wrap bad news in bright, sweeping bursts and catchy rhythms. The soaring melodies here on the first track ask the listener to take comfort, rather than consternation, in the inevitability of human nature and adjust accordingly.
“International Blue” takes the stage and continues with the almost blind sense of optimism; the band made an excellent choice in releasing this song as their first single. Wire, the main lyricist, told NME in December that the song took its title and direction from the work of French Artist Yves Klein, perhaps best known for his works using the titular shade of blue.
In keeping with famous muses, “Dylan & Caitlin” focuses on the poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin, and features a guest duet appearance by Catherine Anne Davies, better known as the Anchoress (who shares Welsh roots with the Manics, as well as the male half of the couple in question). The playful vocal exchanges here bely the largely destructive nature of the relationship in question, and if the lyrics were absorbed only passively, as an afterthought, the song could come across as a lovely duet between healthy adults. Instead, it is another instance of Manic Street Preachers doing what they do best: dressing the despair of human existence into otherwise joyous clothing.
Contrast this to the light air of “Liverpool Revisited,” which seeks to capture the magical zeitgeist of the city in North West England, preserved in the memories of the band during earlier times. The memories here seem fond, if faded and dingy, and with the full knowledge that practically any city could be properly-framed given the motivation.
“Sequels of Forgotten Wars” emerges in the middle of the album as the best track; its forceful lyrics are intertwined with eclectic keyboards and raunchy guitar. Another strong track comes with second single “Distant Colours,” squeezed firmly in the space between the optimism of the two opening tracks and the fuzzy “Vivian,” named in honor of the American photographer Vivian Maier. The guitar lick setting up the chorus here adds some buoyancy to the almost obsessive lyrics.
The odd flavoring of “Hold Me Like a Heaven” is quickly erased by the earnest vocals and engaging guitar of follower “In Eternity.” The singles released to date – “Distant Colours” and “Liverpool Revisited” were third and fourth – may be listed side-by-side, but the latter half of the album still finishes strongly with “Broken Algorithms” combining off-beat percussion and chippy guitar, and the closer “The Left Behind” finally bringing an actual bit of melancholy to a record that after several listens still manages to surprise the listener by setting morbid expectations and dashing them with a peppy smile. Additionally, “A Song for the Sadness” sits as the penultimate track, and, like the band’s work as a whole, delivers anything but what is advertised.
The world may be hurtling toward an end, quickly or eventually, painfully or passively, but the end itself is inevitable, and Manic Street Preachers want to help ease the transition. So have no fear, just sit back and enjoy the anticipated return of this ever so talented Welsh Rock machine. Another strong effort, CrypticRock gives Resistance is Futile 4 out of 5 stars.