As the name would suggest, the Manic Street Preachers’ latest album Futurology is a progressive stream of tracks and while there’s a lot of experimentation that goes into making it work as well as it does, it’s based within a very recognisably “Manics” sound structure. It’s an ambitious record that will make existing fans of the band happy, as well as winning over a whole new generation to the ongoing influence of the Manic Street Preachers.
The album starts out strongly with the bitter sweet title track, Futurology, which sets the bar high for the Manics in terms of the soundscape of the album and the structurally unique nature of the tracks. It’s got an underplayed verse with a shimmering transition into the chorus, backed up with addictive vocals that you’ll find yourself humming a long time after listening to the song. The interlude is class and it leads to a full force close out of ambiguous proportions.
Things turn even more hit-wise on the lead single from the record, Walk Me To The Bridge, which is equally bitter and upbeat. It’s a brilliant 80s alt-pop inspired song with soaring highs and a celebration of the band’s past, no matter what difficulties they faced. It’s got an intricate progression that takes a little getting used to, but when you do you’ll find it hard not to see the genius in it. Interwoven synth and guitar notes make up the foundations of the track and it all leads up to some old-school, high-flying riff magic.
The album gets a bit dark in a slightly Egyptian sort of way on Let’s Go To War, like The Hitcher and Mum-Ra have taken control if James Dean Bradfield. It’s followed by a return to alt-pop smarts in The Next Jet To Leave Moscow, which talks of the recent history that goes into Western interpretations of Russia. The guitar riffs and chord flicks are shiny, combining with catchy vocals that make for a great track.
Germanic industrial punk kicks in on Europa Geht Durch Mich, which features duet vocals with Nina Hoss. It reiterates that this is an album that’s all about taking elements of the past and combining them with elements from the future to make something that’s pretty impressive. Divine Youth, on the other hand, featuring some beautiful vocals from Georgia Ruth Williams, is a slower beast, that verges on the ballad side of the equation. It’s makes for a good contrast to the action of Europa, and sets up a clocks reset for the second half of Futurology.
Sex, Power, Love and Money starts out with crunching guitar that returns for the punch of the chorus, and in all fairness, we love it for it. There’s dark bass and synth pop on the instrumental brilliance that is Dreaming A City, a return to the flirtation with Krautrock on Black Square that gives way to some very catchy pop, and some roving build-outs on Between The Clock And The Bed, featuring vocals from Green Gartside.
Misguided Missiles brings some of the darker side of the 80s pop mix to the album with the kind of drum beats that wouldn’t be out of place on the Rocky IV soundtrack. The lengthy electric guitar solo is genuinely a thing of beauty. The View From Stow Hill is a slightly random blend of low-key industrial with Spanish acoustic guitar and Bowie inspired space dust. It grows on you with frightening complexity that bleeds in aspects of Eno and the Berlin albums to create something that’s a whole lot more intelligent than anything we’ve heard in a while.
The Manic Street Preacher’s twelfth album closes with the art-rock, supersonic, mania of Mayakovsy and it’s amazing use of stereo sound to create an end that will swirl in your consciousness like it’s your very life blood. There’s shades of Resurrection solo flare inserted in an arty, experimental dream cape that makes for a genuinely inspired final track.
Futurology is a wide ranging mix of songs that sound very different, while managing to string together like they’re a part of the same story. It’s one that’s set years ago, but it’s head is fixed on the tick of the second hand of a digital watch in the imagined future of a seminal breakout band from the Welsh valleys.
Manic Street Preachers, Futurology review: 5/5