Release Date: Sep 21, 2010
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It’s tempting to view Postcards from a Young Man as the Everything Must Go to Journal for Plague Lovers’ The Holy Bible, but the analogy isn’t quite that simple. Everything Must Go was cathartic, the bandmembers exorcizing their grief after the disappearance of Richey Edwards, but Postcards from a Young Man is as celebratory as the Manics get, a record that recklessly flirts with joyousness. Once again, the band abandons coiled, tense art-punk for anthemic stadium-fillers, creating arrangements so overloaded they threaten to collapse in a tower of sitars, strings, mandolins, fuzz guitars, and cameos from Ian McCulloch and Duff McKagan.
Let us for a moment return to 1992, the year the Manic Street Preachers released their debut album, Generation Terrorists. Let us imagine the general hilarity you could have caused by suggesting that 18 years later, they would be a beloved British rock institution, defiantly snarling, "I will not give up and I will not give in" on the title track of their eagerly awaited 10th album. It wasn't just that certain Preachers kept insisting they were going to split up after Generation Terrorists was released.
Even when the Manic Street Preachers aren't making their best music, there's something about the band's earnestness and honesty that's refreshing. Though known for their punk roots and political lyrics, they are not cynical. And when bass player Nicky Wire goes around telling interviewers that the new record is going to sound like "heavy metal Tamla Motown," you know he desperately believes it-- doesn't really matter what it actually sounds like.
It should be noted that 2009's duly acclaimed Journal for Plague Lovers was something of an anomaly amid the Manic Street Preachers's canon, consisting solely of posthumous lyrics taken from the scrapbooks of missing (and presumed deceased) guitarist Richard Edwards, with the music written to suit his enthralling, if often enigmatic, prose. The results were edgy, tracks fuelled by angst and spiked with potent social commentary, revisiting the dark and aggressive agenda of the band's early years. This 10th album from the Welsh trio, though, should be taken as a sequel to Send Away the Tigers, 2007's collection of buoyant guitar-driven anthems that set the wheels in motion for a resurgence in the band's post-millennial output.
Fun as the self-mythologising and hyperbole and hoopla around the Manic Street Preachers always is, the trio’s better records have, ultimately, been able to speak for themselves, without Nicky Wire needing to do it for them. But self-mythologising and hyperbole and hoopla is what gets the Manics column inches these days, and Wire has already blithely labelled tenth album Postcards From A Young Man as ‘heavy metal Motown’, a hysterically misleading description that would be slightly funnier if you didn’t frequently wish that this was how it did sound. It’s also been billed as ‘a final attempt at mass communication’, a soundbite that’s perhaps equally inaccurate, albeit for more interesting reasons.
Manic Street Preachers are an infuriating band to love, particularly for Americans. Hewing a sound more closely related to US guitar rock of the ‘80’s while their British peers used a Kinks blueprint to charm the masses, the band only touched a scattershot few. When the Manics—as us fans so endearingly call them—switched over to a heavier version of post-punk, the indie minded replied with, “wait a decade and then this sound will be in.” When the band finally realized that stateliness inflected with the perfect dosage of optimism was what the British were looking for, Americans yet again turned an indifferent eye.
The Manics’ tenth studio LP is both incredibly jolly and jolly good. Will Dean 2010 If last year's Journal for Plague Lovers was the Manics' message from the ghost of their past to their present, this is their present's postcard to their mid-career pop peak. It's – and this isn't a phrase often associated with the Manics – an incredibly jolly rock record.