Albums Of The Week

Irresistible heartfelt, cinematic rock

Manic Street Preachers' members (from left) Sean Moore, Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield.
Manic Street Preachers' members (from left) Sean Moore, Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield.PHOTO: ALEX LAKE

The 13th album of Welsh alt-rockers Manic Street Preachers blends their numerous sounds in the last 32 years

ALTERNATIVE ROCK

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

4.5 stars

Despite its seemingly fatalistic title, Welsh alt-rock elders Manic Street Preachers' 13th album sees the trio pull off what they do best - heartfelt, cinematic rock that highlights the everyman and focuses on the ebb and flow of life.

While they have come a long way since their late 1980s/early 1990s years as a band that merged the glam and swagger of hard rock with incisive political sloganeering, Resistance Is Futile works as a pastiche of the band's various permutations in the last 32 years.

Long-time fans would likely feel a pang of nostalgia while taking in the winding guitars and pop catchiness of International Blue, which bassist and primary lyricist Nicky Wire has described as a "sister" song to their 1992 hit, and indie club staple, Motorcycle Emptiness.

Album-opener People Give In is a throwback to 1996's orchestra-laden Everything Must Go, a landmark album that saw them make the transition to arena-rock vanguards.

"People break down/People move on/People can cope/People stay strong," singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield exhorts in the latest addition to the band's long list of working-class anthems.

Distant Colours, a single from the album and Bradfield's sole lyrical contribution, is a strident response to the fractured political order ("I no longer know my left from my right/Between your hopes and fears/And my choice to decide").

Manic Street Preachers' members (from left) Sean Moore, Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield.

Global travails aside, the mood of the album does not descend into despair.

Liverpool Revisited is a sequel to SYMM from 1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

Both touch on the tragedy that claimed 96 lives in a football game crush in Liverpool, but while the older song railed against the corruptions and cover-ups following the incident, the new song focuses on the Liverpudlian's courage, joy and devotion ("There is dignity and pride/There is poetry and life/ There are ghosts within these stones/There's defiance in these bones").

There are plenty of moments in which the band, which also comprise drummer Sean Moore, shine a light on the arts and literature.

International Blue is a nod to French art pioneer Yves Klein, while Vivian pays tribute to American nanny-turned-street photographer Vivian Maier - much like how the band sang and named a song after Pulitzer Prize-winning South African photographer Kevin Carter back in 1996.

In the vein of past duets, such as 2007's Your Love Alone Is Not Enough with Nina Persson of The Cardigans, the band rope in fellow Welsh singer The Anchoress for Dylan & Caitlin, a song about the tumultuous relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin.

The album's striking cover depicts a 1881 portrait of one of Japan's last samurai warriors.

It is a fitting analogy for the Manics, a rock band still hanging onto their guitars while the contemporary music landscape is overrun with tech-driven music makers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'Irresistible heartfelt, cinematic rock'. Print Edition | Subscribe