Review Summary: "one last shot at mass communication" - Nicky Wire describing Postcards from a young man2 of 9 thought this review was well written
You know the type of person you meet at a party, the stranger you are inevitably introduced to by a friend who then quickly excuses themselves while you are left talking to the stranger. At first all is well, they seem like a nice pleasant person. They agree with everything you say, laugh at all your jokes but slowly but surely their wide eyed enthusaism and permanent grin begin to grate and you realise this person is driven by the sheer desperation to be liked no matter what. This is exactly what the Manics latest album feels like. This is a direct and unashamed attempt for mainstream success. Remember folks this is band who once sung "don't fall in love because we hate you still" on their debut album. If journal for Plague LOvers was a sequel to The Holy Bible then Postcards from a young man is a sequel to Send away the Tigers.
Postcards has two types of songs, loud and louder as it revels in its excess of glam, stadium rock (Queen meets Guns n' Roses), Motown.
There are three guest artists, but these are barely noticeable. Some Kind of Nothingness features Ian McCulloch but his vocals are sandwiched in between a thundering backing track Bradfield's even more thundering voice and a bloody choir and strings... did I mention strings!!!! There are contributions from John Cale and Duff McKagan but good luck trying to figure out which songs they are on. Almost everything on Postcards is bombastic, a wall-of-sound string orchestra and choir overshadow and drown out almost everything else on the tracks they feature on.
Opener and current single 'It's Not War (Just the End of Love) is a slice of euphoric FM rock on an album full of euphoric FM rock. It's not half bad but not
half great either. It doesn't hit you the same way A design for Life, Kevin Carter, Tolerate or even Australia did. It's intro recalls the glam rock of
Generation Terrorists until sweeping strings storm in. Title track Postcards from a young man is next, which is slower in pace, featuring some piano in the
backing track, but again the strings, which were so beautifully used on Everything Must Go, drown out almost everything except for Bradfield's voice which is at its loudest and most passionate in years. In fact the one high light of the album is Bradfield, who again reminds you what a great singer he is and
makes the excesses of the album almost bareable. The Descent (Pages 1 & 2) is similar but is slightly better than what has gone before, with a good chorus and some nice drumming from Sean Moore. Even the strings compliment the song rather than over power it. Things picks up even more with Hazelton Avenue and Auto Intoxication. Hazelton Avenue is a Motown-inflected track with the main riff similar to the It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over' by Lenny Kravitz. Auto Intoxication may be the highlight of the album, it sounds distinctly like later day Manics, its chorus recalls the more ambient moments of the Manics B-side Valley Boy. It contrasts a some taunt first half with acoustic guitar and a fuzzy guitar with dark ambient moments and stadium rock euphoria. Lyrically there are no direct political sloganeering but thankfully no introspective meanderings from Nicky Wire about his domestic life and hoovering fetish. The closest we get to any political content is Golden Platitudes which seems to be a comment on the liberal-left elite.
Quality dips with "I Think I've Found It", it is an unremarkable and forgettable song whose only saving grace is the use of mandola which makes a break from
the stock guitar riffs that feature on some of the songs. Don't get me wrong, Bradfield is a great guitarist, with an amazing ear of melody and the ability
to knock out great riffs but they are few and far between on this album. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun and All We Make Is Entertainment are better. In fact its finally on A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun that Bradfield lays down some memorable riffs. All we make is Entertainment opens with the lines "I am no longer preaching to the converted/ the congregation has long ago deserted" and its chorus includes the lines "All we make is entertainment/A sad indictment of what we could have/We were part of the grand illusion". Again another strong number with some nice sparse lo fi moments. In many ways the song sums up the album. Here is a band that emerged in the early 90's with the belief that they could change the world who spat rhetoric, venom and politics and culture. They built up a fan base that was diehard and intensely devoted to whom the Manics were more than just a band. Here the Manics agenda is not to change the world it is to purely to entertain. If this is the Manics attempt at mass communication, it ironically finds them shouting louder than ever before but this time they have nothing to say. Their lyrics are as uninspired at the music that surrounds them.
There should no reason why the Manics shouldn't achieve the aim of mass communication. Almost every song the album could a single that has the potential to feature heavily on day time radio. This album may even pick them up a few new fans, who will hopefully devel deeper into the band's catalogue and discover the brilliance of The Holy Bible and EMG. The Manics has always been a frustrating band, who seem almost intent on shedding their fan base by following a highy commerical album with something completely left of field. While they must be commended for experimenting with their sound on each album. Some of their choices leaves you angrily scratching your head as to why you even bothered in the first place. This album is very much for fans who loved the camp glam of Send Away the Tigers or the MOR glossy rock of Lifeblood and were confounded by the raw brillance Journals for Plague Lovers Postcards. Equally for the rest of us who left short changed by the Manics latest offering we have the hope that, in theory at least, the next album should be a beast.