Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers

Well surprise, the Man Ix Treatp Reachers recorded another good album. Could it be that they’ve been a talented band all along? For the record, I think they’re a bunch of overachievers, but this is still a solid recording. For the first time in forever they don’t sound obsessed with making as many people like them as much as they possibly can. This album does many thins right: it entirely uses lyrics written by the doomed Richey James. It eschews (bless you) strings in favour of sounding like an indie rock band. It’s pleasantly concise, with only one song crossing the four-minute mark. It never tries to get cheerful or be anything other than vaguely bleak. It ends with a sad suicide note of a sad song that makes me sad. Most importantly, the band sound genuinely emotional; like they care more about the music than they do about how the music will be received. It’s nice to see from a trio of fattened 90s Welshmen who realistically have no need for money anymore. More importantly, this is an album that could pass for being written by a bunch of disaffected 23 year-olds without sacrificing the melodic know-how that comes from experience.

Oh sure it’s not perfect. Not even great. These aren’t by any means the best lyrics Richey ever wrote, and the more I try to glean his opinions about just about anything the more I figure he was a pretentious lizard who doesn’t understand the proper use of the phrase “beg the question.” Musically the album lacks a haymker to stick in your head muscle and make you excited and sad like The Holy Bible used to. The acoustic numbers are boring as Bohr. And my version includes an entire useless album of demo tracks while excluding the track “Bag Lady” that’s on the normal version, presumably so that “Real” fans will have to buy both.

But corporate shanningans aside, this album is the freest of corporate shannings for the Manics since before they existified. “Peeled Apples”? Awesome! “She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach”? Bleak and awesome! “William’s Last Words”? Baww worthy! “Marion J.D.”? Violently anachronistic and awesome.

Did you know that between this album and the one before it they recorded a cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”? Well, they did. And it’s freaking great – self-aware without being free of genuine admiration and application of rock godness to a Rihanna song. They shoulda put that one here. So that they wouldn’t sound so bummed out about their ol’ dead friend. And their cover of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. And the Benny Hill Theme. And a pony. That’ll show them!

8/10

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