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Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers

Manic Street Preachers, Journal For Plague Lovers

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE ninth studio album from Manic Street Preachers is instantly notable for featuring lyrics left behind by former guitarist Richey Edwards across all 13 new tracks. And it grabs the attention from the opening moments, courtesy of its blatantly rocky approach.

But while there’s plenty to admire, it remains an album for the die-hard journeymen fans more than the masses as its 13 tracks do eventually sound samey, particularly as they draw heavily on the past.

Musically, they draw on their classic Holy Bible sound with elements of Nirvana’s In Utero thrown in for good measure. There is a delicate acoustic side at times, but this is kept to a minimum mostly.

Commenting on the decision to use Richey’s words after all this time, Nicky Wire said: “The brilliance and intelligence of the lyrics dictated that we had to finally use them.

“The use of language is stunning and topics include The Grande Odalisque by Ingres, Marlon Brando, Giant Haystacks, celebrity, consumerism and dysmorphia, all reiterating the genius and intellect of Richard James Edwards.”

Needless to say, it makes for a volatile, heady brew and must have taken some songwriting to properly make playable. But early on, the band succeed in making you wonder why they didn’t do it earlier.

Efforts such as Peeled Apples and Me And Stephen Hawking are real throwbacks to classic MSP numbers and will exhilarate with their driven approach.

While lyrically, most songs pack a punch, with former single Jackie Collins Existential Question Time begging the question, quite literally, “if a married man fucks a Catholic and his wife dies without knowing does that make him unfaithful people?”

The more tender side to the album is showcased on tracks such as This Joke Sport Severed, a highlight that benefits from a lush string bedding, and Facing Page: Top Left – which is purely acoustic and a nice break from some of the heavier, punkier stuff.

But by then, the album has already started to show signs of over-familiarity and it struggles to really deliver anything as strong as its first four songs.

Marlon JD is just an out-and-out rocker, the mid-tempo Doors Closing Slowly squanders its early potential and All Is Vanity actually manages to sound a little dated.

The album rallies briefly during Pretension/Repulsion, which actually rocks out like a classic slice of Stereophonics, and Virginia State Epileptic Colony, which drops some nice melodies and piano loops in among the robust guitar riffs.

But overall, while competent and well worth listening to, Journal For Plague Lovers fails to capitalise on its early momentum and is solid rather than spectacular.

Editor’s note: For anyone wondering about the album’s striking artwork, it’s an original piece of Jenny Saville’s art, whose painting also graced the cover of 1994’s The Holy Bible.

Download picks: Peeled Apples, Jackie Collins Existential Question Time, This Joke Sport Severed, Virginia State Epileptic Colony

Track listing:

  1. Peeled Apples’ ‘
  2. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
  3. Me And Stephen Hawking
  4. This Joke Sport Severed
  5. Journal For Plague Lovers’ ‘She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach
  6. Facing Page: Top Left
  7. Marlon J.D.
  8. Doors Closing Slowly
  9. All Is Vanity
  10. Pretension/Repulsion
  11. Virginia State Epileptic Colony
  12. William’s Last Words