Album Reviews - Reviews

Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film


This must be said as a precursor to this whole review. I love the Manic Street Preachers. I love almost everything that they have done; I’m the type of fan who thinks that Lifeblood isn’t a catastrophic  failure and who has literally spent 11 straight hours listening to their entire discography. Needless to say that I am somewhat bias toward the Welsh trio. But even with this level bias in favour of the band, I say with the utmost integrity and honest that their eleventh and latest release, Rewind The Film, is undeniably one of the best albums the band has ever produced and ranks as one of this year’s best.

Within the pantheon of the Manics, this album owes more to the slow reflective sorrow This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours school of thought than the “fuck everything but do so poetically” rage of The Holy Bible or 2009’s Journal For Plague Lovers. The album has a much more mellow focus and is an excellent response to 2010’s OTT extravaganza Postcards From A Young Man. There are strings and hints of pomposity elegantly placed throughout the disc, but moreover the emphasis is more on simplicity and naturalism. It’s not until more than halfway through the album that the first hint of any form of electric guitar creeps its way into the mix. This fits the general mood on display; a reaction to the loss of youthful energy and strength.

Lyrically, the album conveys this expertly. The band have always been known for their focus on lyricism and the quality that exists therein, but lyricist Nicky Wire really outdoes himself this time around.  Throughout the runtime there exist these wonderful lyrical gems that Wire seems to toss out with such ease that you can’t help but be jealous of him. Considering that the focal point of the album is middle age and the reflection, Wire does a truly excellent job at managing to bypass the sort of faux angst-ridden dross that normally ruins this kind of release. Billy Corgan should take note. The words always tie back to real concerns and issues that seem to face those looking down the barrel of being over 40. For a band that claims on Builder of Routines to be “so sick and so tired of being 4 real”, they can’t help but let their honestly shine through. With that said, the album does seem to fall into the patterns one comes to expect from a Preachers album. Melancholic? Check. Loaded to the brim with references?  With nods to Talking HeadLeonard Cohen and Sofia Coppola, that is a resounding check. Self-defeating? Oh yeah. What we end up facing is the realisation that the best years almost definitely have passed us by. But that is when the musical prowess of James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore breaks through the cracks in Wire’s broken veneer.

While Wire might be sitting gazing in- and downwards, the song writing duo of Moore and Bradfield bring some much need light to the proceedings. Be it the ‘God Only Knows’ like horns of ‘Builder of Routines’, the blaring horns of ‘Show Me The Wonder’ or the synths that slide in and out like serpentines throughout, the two somehow manage to find something of darkness. The highlights of the album for the duo are the superb ‘(I Miss the) Tokyo Skyline’ and the heart wrenchingly longing ‘As Holy as the Soil (That Covers Your Skin)’. Both songs showcase just how subtle and magnificent the Manics can be, and rank as two of the best songs the band has ever produced. It’s not until the late album instrumental ‘Manorbier’ that the duo stumble, but this is immediately undone by the angry, blood boiling middle finger to the failure of the working class in the post-Thatcher years that is ‘30 Year War’. They might be older, but they’re still fighting it.

I’ve always believed that there is a deep seeded optimism at the heart of the Manics. Be it the tub-thumbing rabble rousing chants of Postcards… or the decision to conclude The Holy Bible with PCP over Intense Humming of Evil, the band have always revelled in showcasing the darkness and nihilism at the heart of the universe, but seem to never fully accept it. When faced with the void, the band always seem to be fighting; pushing towards something futile as it may be. This holds true on Rewind the Film. Wounds may be being licked, but the anger is still there. The light may be dying, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rage against it. Reality and aging might corner you, but if Rewind shows one thing, it’s that there are still a few moves left to be played. As Bradfield sings on ‘As Holy as the Soil (That Buries Your Skin)’:

“We could save the world/just me and you/doing something true/even if it only lasts for a second.” Will Murphy