Review Summary: "...Working Class Skeletons Lie Scattered in Museums..."
When the Manic's performed their massive 3-hour set of hits at the O2 in 2012, it was something of an ending for the band. Yes, they'd just performed a vast catalogue of well-known hits to tens of thousands of fans in their biggest indoor venue yet, but just like the disappearance of Richey Edwards closing the initial chapter of the band, this performance seemed monumental. Coming off of Postcards from a Young Man
, lyricist/bassist Nicky Wire declared it would be "one last shot at mass communication". His sentiment rang true when after the largely uninteresting pop rock piece, they returned with the acoustic midlife contemplation Rewind the Film
. Needless to say, this third chapter for the band seemed to place more emphasis on experimentation than ever, meandering cold into the wilderness and giving a massive '***
you' to consequences.
Although not released as such, it's best to view Futurology
as the second disc to a sprawling piece begun with Rewind the Film
, complimenting it by providing everything the initial didn't. Notably, Rewind the Film
was a sullen album, completed by dulcet tones, sullen and defeated lyrics and an ignorance for the Gibson Les Paul (save a rather undercooked "3 Ways to See Despair"). Now, it seems, Futurology
by name appears to look forward, staring with political frustration into an abyss of recession, fascism and corruption, charged by hard-as-nails riffs and soaring vocal performances. Thank God, the Manic's we love are back in the saddle again.
Excitement is notable off the cuff; "Futurology" and lead single "Walk Me to the Bridge" march along proudly in time to multiple audibly overdriven guitars, matched only by flamboyant synth choruses and James Dean Bradfield's underrated and commanding vocal performances. Anthemic in a way "Anthem for a Lost Cause" was not, tracks like the pre-The Holy Bible
mimicry of "Sex Power Love & Money" and the clearly PiL informed "Let's Go to War", move and shake their moneymaker with far more conviction than any of their other albums have done in recent memory, rarely leaning too hard onto the wrong side of Eurovision. Eventually, the album turns sedate, and it does so in a far more menacing way than the somber tones exhibited on "This Sullen Welsh Heart"; "Divine Youth" and "A View from Stow Hill" are most apparent, aggressively bleak prophecies of forward-looking naivety and the menace of the '10s and beyond.
The European manifesto is typified by industrial glam stomp "Europa Geht Durch Mich" (English translation: "Europe Goes Through Me"), a whole 3-and-a-half minutes of glorious heavy metal Goldfrapp and distinct Europhilia. Coupled with German actress Nina Hoss, the song delves from Bradfield's simple delivery of "European smiles, European desires", to Nina Hoss's indelibly singable chant of the title; without notice, it devolves into 100% German, and meaning becomes locked away. Underneath the marching drums and metallic screech of guitar and synth suffocates the "European dreams", the Manic's finally with a concept to drive home that isn't half-baked or ill-informed. Whether Futurology
is commercially successful or not isn't much of a concern, for any band to be at their 12th album with such aplomb is commendable, thankfully the Manic's aren't squandering what they have.
It's forgivable to be suspicious of the intent; the Manic's have hurt their fans too many times to count now. However with Futurology
, what we finally get is an album of political passion and total guitar worship made absolutely unconventional. What comes next and what came before has no bearing on the simple status Futurology
has now; the album where the Manic's finally got a grip and realized how to rock without their boundaries.