The Manic Street Preachers are asking if resistance is futile?
Well, that is a good question. It depends on the circumstance, on the subject matter and other issues. When this question comes to the Manic Street Preachers, this is what one would call a loaded question. Ever since the Manic’s appeared on the UK music scene with their debut album Generation Terrorists all the way back in 1992, they have courted controversy and speculation as someone would court their lover. Over the course of twelve albums, they have gone from noisy upstarts (Generation Terrorists), to revolutionary leaders (The Holy Bible), to the musicians of choice to a generation of advertisement campaigners (Everything Must Go), before being classed as elder statesmen of a forgotten scene (Send Away the Tigers). If I went over their history, I could be here all day. Instead, I’ll look to the present and their latest album.
The Manic Street Preachers’ have come back on the thirteenth album, Resistance is Futile.
The cover art is of a samurai warrior, who is staring off to the side with a look of contemplation. Nicky Wire (bass player) in an interview with Noisey.vice.com confirmed that warrior represents the band; he becomes an analogy for them as (and I quote Wire directly here) “everyone else has their iPhones and we’ve still got our guitars”. After all these years, after all those records, I can see why they see themselves in the warrior. They’ve seen many bands come and go and sold out hundreds of rooms. They’ve have become the old guard and it must be a hard thing to keep on doing.
On Resistance is Futile, we find a band in a reflective state. The opening words to “People Give In” are “People get tired, people get old”. If you were just looking at the lyrics, you would think the band were about the throw the towel in, not release another album. On “Distance Colours”, they wonder if they “Are living in the past”. They take about “a lip-synced moral maze soliloquy” on “Sequels of Forgotten Wars”, they seem to go on and on about the world that is beyond their comprehension at times. It’s a little sad to see them turn into this, to sound so resigned to their fate.
But this is one of the Manic Street Preachers’ best tricks. Their lyrics have always tended to be depressing, withdrawn, and at times, brutally honest.
Musically, Resistance is Futile is a throwback to the sounds of Everything Must Go and Gold Against Your Soul. If you’re expecting the angry sounds of their first & third albums, you’ll be disappointed. But ask yourself this – would you want a bunch of men in their late forties trying to sound as if they are in their early twenties?
Personally, I’m glad that they’re not revisiting those periods again. They’ve done it before, but they’re no longer those angry, young men. Instead, they’ve gone for the periods where their sound was accessible and they were commercially at the top of their game.
Resistance is Futile is dripping with so many melodies, so many hooks, it seems sort of unfair. The nostalgic permeating from this album is so strong, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a compilation of deep cuts from previous records.
Songs such as the glorious “International Blue” sound so familiar from the outset, as if you’ve heard it all before. “Dylan & Caitlin” (featuring The Anchoress) sounds like the country version of “You’re Love Alone”, the wonderful “Liverpool Revisited” which is a marvellous tribute to the city in the North-West of England is rich in heritage as well. They’ve mined their own sound, crafted songs which sound timeless and for the most part are enjoyable. But as good as it sounds, there is a backwards streak here which is off-putting.
Whilst not accusing the Manic Street Preachers of having regressed, Resistance is Futile is haunted by the past.
Which is slightly worrying, if I’m being honest. Nostalgia is something that I will begrudgingly admit has a place in the world. Hell, I love a classic album/track/film/TV show as much as anyone, but this level of nostalgia on a new record? No matter how beautiful the production (this record is silky smooth), no matter how catchy the songs, it feels tainted by the past. I understand the desire to look back to your own successes. It’s human to long for past glories, but I never thought it would sound so weary.
And that’s the rub of Resistance is Futile, it sounds so weary from the outset. I’ve grown up with this band, I love the Manic Street Preachers and this is not their worst representation of themselves. Yet, when you sound as defeated as they do on this album, you’ve got to wonder if the title is for them or for us.
Are they trying to embrace the past now, or resigned that they’ll never escape their own fame? If so (and to paraphrase one of their song titles), so why the hell are they so sad? Maybe they are admitting that the modern world is starting to become alien to them? Maybe, just maybe, they are turning into the acts they originally rebelled against. This is not an album I’m hating, but it gives more questions than answers.
Resistance is Futile is a beautiful, regretful album that would sound brilliant if you had not heard of the Manic Street Preachers beforehand. I hope they don’t end this way.
Owner of more Frank Zappa music than one human needs, two cats and looked after by an Angel, Eddie Carter thinks about music more than a Geordie should. Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, Eddie spends most of his time surrounded by CD’s and records. He also writes for All The Time I Was Listening to My Own Wall of Sound, his beard is grey and not long enough – also, he wants a pint.