[sic] Magazine

Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man

How did it get to this? Twenty years after their furious debut, The Manics – having now long outlived their five year flirtation with vastness – are now, ten years after their peak, doing the dreaded thing that all musicians do after a while – becoming careerist. Starting this record with the aim of ‘One Last Shot At Mass Communication’ is a desperate move to be frank – because great artists need not cling to mass communication, but to great art. Especially as The Manics themselves appear at least to not necessarily have any monetary requirement for hugeness anymore. It isn’t that ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ is a bad record. It’s that it’s the same old, same old.

If anything this reminds me of The Fall’s career : always changing, always the same. There’s a determined lack of progression in this, the first record in a while that has shown no movement, no exploration. It’s just a bunch of new songs that sound just like the old songs. Lyrically, the songs are lacking the fierce bite of old – the dreaded middle aged spread is taking hold, the words almost fading to nothingness, the anger, and thus, the vitality, the spark seemingly almost forced. Maybe its that the Manics have stayed unchanging in an ever changing world, and now are in danger of appearing to be dinosaurs, or worse yet, obsolete. You would think that faced with the full circle of coming from their glory years under the boot of Conservatism to the new ConDemNation that they would find some kind of fire, some kind of articulate deconstruction of the destruction of the society that is nothing but a market, the Manics might have something to say. But on this record, they don’t. Who knows?. It might take years, decades, for this record to be seen for what it currently isn’t. What do I know? What I do know is that this is The Manics tenth album in twenty years, that I have been there since the ‘New Art Riot’ EP, that The Manics have grown up in public, and grown with me, and now, they appear to be growing apart from me.

It’s a tired formula that has served them well since 1996, mid-paced, big chorus, key changes, sweeping strings, socio-political lyrics, but it doesn’t seem to add anything new, and seems to me to start to become tired and staid. I remember a joke James Dean Bradfield made over a decade ago about releasing umpteen identical albums with dull and tired lyrics, and to some extent, it is now becoming a reality. About the only thing that redeems this record from the sound of disappointment are the shards of greatness that come from the appended demo versions, that are shimmeringly minimal, and often dripping in the heartfelt soul the dense production of the finished record often swamps.

Sadly, this record screams a lack of inspiration ; musically it is repetitive and uninventive, lyrically it has settled to a almost reductive and vapid message : what always drew me to the Manics was the power of, and the use of, powerful literacy with superior music. And here, The Manics aren’t selling out, but buying in, of a sort, and it is a big, ambitious plea to the lowest common denominator. Ultimately, it isn’t successful, the sound of hollow bombast trying to cover the void within, which is that The Manics themselves don’t necessarily have anything to say anymore. And that’s the tragedy of mistaking saying something with having something to say.



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