Manic Street Preachers - Futurology
For a band in their mid-40s and onto their 12th studio album, the Manic Street Preachers should have nothing to prove, right? After last year’s mellow Rewind The Film confirmed that they’ve still got 'it' - whatever 'it' is - the fact that they've followed it up less than 12 months later to stake a claim for one of the albums of the year is faintly ridiculous. Futurology channels Bowie (both the Berlin and glam eras), the Europhilia of Simple Minds and, oddly enough, 80s video game soundtracks. That may sound overly retro in print, yet recorded at Hansa studios (where Bowie recorded Heroes) in Berlin at the same time as Rewind The Film, this is a resolutely forward-looking project.
Opening with the title track, a big hitting rock anthem that’s already become a highlight in the band’s live shows, Wire takes lead in the chorus (“We’ll come back one day / We never really went away”), while James Dean Bradfield croons the verses with that unmistakable Welsh lilt. Single ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ has a bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place on 1994’s The Holy Bible, but this is not punk, this is a bona fide stadium anthem. Wire may insist otherwise, but anyone who reads the lyrics will think of the band’s departed guitarist Richey Edwards. ‘Let’s Go To War’ sees the band flirt properly with the 80s vibe for the first time on the album, with Bradfield declaring “Working class skeletons lie scattered in museums”. Those roots run deep.
‘Europa Geht Dirch Mich’ (translated as ‘Europe Runs Through Me’) features German actress Nina Hoss on a bi-lingual political stomper, with guitar squeals and a powerful bassline sustaining the band's rock credentials. The wonderful ‘Sex, Power, Love and Money’ is the album’s finest moment, its critique of modern society referencing Bowie again (“We could be heroes / But failure’s more fun”) atop a wedge of classic Manics glam trash. The instrumental ‘Dreaming A City (Hughesovka)’ (named after a town in Ukraine founded by Welsh businessman John Hughes in 1869, now known as Donetsk) sounds like a Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack - in a very good way.
If Rewind The Film was defined by a jaded sense of resignation, then Futurology flips that around. It's like they've thought “Fuck it,” and emerged energised, forward-looking. Futurology, the study of what might come to pass. No more glances in the rear view mirror. No more brooding on the past. Manic Street Preachers - now and for always.