“It still whets the appetite for next year’s promised Krautrock album (if only to see how terrible that could potentially be)”- 2013 Palmers
Ah come on, were you really expecting anything else? Tiger Woods was once asked whether he considered himself to be the greatest golfer of all time and replied that he only wanted to be involved in the conversation, similarly while the Manics’ 12th (twelfth! I need a lie down…) may not automatically be considered their best work, it at least deserves a seat at the table. In fact 1994’s ‘The Holy Bible’, 1996’s ‘Everything Must Go’ and this form a delightful triptych of the three stages of the Manics. This third stage actually opened up with last year’s underwhelming and rather wet ‘Rewind the Film’ (after stage two had closed off with the equally unremarkable ‘Postcards From a Young Man’) and it seemed like one of the generation’s most essential and exciting bands (in fact, fuck that, this is my list: the generation’s most essential and exciting bands) might be about to sadly drift off into middle-aged irrelevance, perhaps releasing one acoustic meandering every two or three years to the wider public’s collective shrug. ‘Futurology’ was previewed by Nicky Wire as always throwing out brilliant sound bites about how the new album was going to sound like Bowie, Kraftwerk, 80s Simple Minds and of course Krautrock, how it was going to encapsulate the band’s new Euro-influenced sound and was fittingly recorded in Berlin, the kind of brilliant trash-talking we’ve now come to expect to preview every release before we actually hear the record and it only sounds like more Manics. Then lead single Walk Me To the Bridge (which Nicky claims has nothing to do with Richey Edwards and is in fact all about his own uncertainty over the band, which is patently bollocks and surely Wire isn’t arrogant enough to refer to himself with the line ‘Still blinded by your intellect’) arrived and sounded brilliant– a thrilling combination of electro stabs and BIG melodic blasts based around a hook so massive you could hang Mussolini on it (yes! I knew I had one left in me!) and people started whispering about whether the Manics could somehow pull it off. When we first heard the second release- the gloriously bonkers Europa Geht Dirch Mich (German for ‘Europe gives dirt mice’) featuring a wonderful guest vocal by German actor Nina Hoss that sounds like nothing if not Goldfrapp’s Train fed through a meet grinder- the band’s wonderful new direction’s success began to become clear. Talking it had never been a problem but it seemed that they were actually going to walk it on the new album. And so it proved- ‘Futurology’ is a perfect 13 tracks and 48 minutes that manages to take on many new influences and perform new tricks while still sounding like nobody else like the Manics. And despite all these new influences ‘Futurology’ is a very ‘Manics’ album- no other band could happily stick such wonderful silliness as Sex, Power, Love and Money on such an ostensibly ‘serious’ album without batting an eyelid, no other band could sing a chorus of ‘I am the Sturm und Drag/I am the schadenfraude’ as they do here on Misguided Missile, no other band could express such self-awareness as the Manics do in Next Jet to Leave Moscow (‘So you played in Cuba did you like it brother?/I bet you felt proud you silly little fucker/And all the sixties dreamers called us English/Said we started something we couldn’t finish’- as always the best Manic Street Preachers songs are about the Manic Street Preachers). Even with the album sounding quite so ‘Manicsy’ it still fits in an unusually large number of guest appearances that are all uniformly brilliant, from the aforementioned Hoss to Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside turning up on the wonderful Between the Clock and the Bed to the absolutely gorgeous voice of Georgia Ruth on the absolutely gorgeous Divine Youth, it seems the Manics have created whole political party where anybody’s welcome and it all sounds like fantastic fun. When the band started writing the album they couldn’t have foreseen how when it would be released the concept of Europe and people being (un)invited would turn out to be such a hot button subject, yet when it was released ‘Futurology’ suddenly turned out to be the anti-UKIP album, a statement of how wonderful Europe is and how blessed we are to be a part of it, looking- as the title suggests- to a idealised future where more borders are torn down rather than Farage’s constant hankering for a past where more such things existed. In fact this album and the Young Fathers’ debut (plus that child of Sharon van Etten and Kayus Bankole I’m engineering) can both be seen as a wonderful riposte to the current popular ideas of cutting the country off from the outside World (two of Young Fathers’ three members would be deported under UKIP policies. As would Nigel Farage’s children but let’s just ignore that) and instead highlights the possibilities of what beauty could be created if we all pulled as one.
Ah shit, this is rapidly turning into some hippy bullshit, I’m off fox hunting.
The album’s great by the way.