Release Date: Apr 13, 2018
Record label: Columbia
A Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz photograph called 'Samurai Warrior 1881' adorns the sleeve of the Manics' 13th album, 'Resistance Is Futile'. It's a snapshot of one of the very last warriors of his kind. Much like the record's title itself, is this a call to arms in the face of the changing tide, or an acceptance of defeat? "People get tired, people get old - people get forgotten, people get sold," pines James Dean Bradfield on opener 'People Give In', but rather than collapsing under the weight of the sorrow at how "there is no theory of everything", the band gloriously rise from the ashes - driven by their hardened will just to exist and grow stronger.
The title Resistance Is Futile can be read two ways: it can be seen as a statement of defiance, a claim that no listener can withstand the bombast of Manic Street Preachers, or it can be seen as an admission that there is no reason to put up a fight in these politically charged times. The title and lyrics of "People Give In" -- a song where James Dean Bradfield sings "People get tired, people get old" -- may suggest that the Manics are on the verge of giving up the ghost as they approach middle age, but that's a feint. Resistance Is Futile is clearly the work of a band whose members cherish vitality above all other attributes, but the reason why the Manics remain an ongoing concern after a quarter century is that they never attempt to act like any other age than what they are.
Following on from a late-career flurry of brilliance with the 1-2 combo of melancholic Rewind the Film (2013) and the surging Futurology (2014), Blackwood, Wales' finest have returned with an album that savvy bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire stated back in October 2017 would possibly never happen, their "creative juices" sapped by the endeavors of the aforementioned records. Situationist stances aside it is clear that on Resistance Is Futile, a little of the classic Manics fire is lacking— those creative juices spread a touch thinly across the 12 uneven tracks on offer. On the plus side is the blazing classic rock of lead single "International Blue," a twisting, soaring stormer that offers inspiration to match the sadness— a true Manics trope.
The blank page awaits. If you've listened to the Manic Street Preachers for as long as I have, the first thing you will notice about Resistance is Futile is that it's so unnervingly content with itself, in a way that the Manic's rarely ever have been. Even its title, a seeming rejection of their kicking against the pricks motif that basically was their reason to exist all these years, sounds like a band completely and totally defeated by years and years of narratives and expectations; the makeup, the slogans, the military regalia, the hits, and the synths. Its opening track, "People Give In," sings it simply enough: 'People get tired, people get old, people get forgotten, people get sold ...
The release of 2010's Postcards from a Young Man was announced in typically dramatic style as "one last shot at mass communication"; a presumed swansong for the kind of strings-embellished anthemic rock that has been the group's backbone since the disappearance of lyricist Richey Edwards in 1995, and the subsequent ubiquity and commercial success of the following year's Everything Must Go. Resistance is Futile - the group's 13th studio album - is the inevitable about-turn; a record that returns to the Manics 2. 0 default, but that is still intriguing for the esoteric subject matter delivered by its deceptively straightforward aesthetics.
"People get tired / People get old / People get forgotten / People get sold," go the first words of ‘People Give In’ - the opening track of Manic Street Preachers’ 13th studio album. Firmly into the third decade of their career, one characterised by wilful stubbornness and the ability to wrong-foot preconceptions at every turn (not least by often throwing out a completely mainstream-embracing chart hit), you sense they’ve done that one on purpose. Now all on the cusp of 50, these are worries that could arguably be lobbied at the Welsh trio.
After the uncharted territory of 2013's pastoral 'Rewind The Film' and 2014's angular 'Futurology', the Manics' 13th studio album is a sprightly waltz across the catalogue. 'Vivian', focusing on photographer Vivian Maier, is 'This Is My Truth' fed through a War On Drugs filter, while 'International Blue' has already been the subject of numerous 'Motorcycle Emptiness' comparisons with its robust riff and wipe-clean production. 'Dylan And Caitlin', a duet with The Anchoress, is a little like The Beautiful South (Wales), delivered with an infectious, string-driven warmth.
Approaching a new Manic Street Preachers record for the first time is always a strange experience. They are a band with an array of distinctive musical tropes - unabashed and glistening riffs, bombastic waves of orchestral strings - and also a band for whom no album is ever like anything they've done before. As a group who perpetually seem to look both forwards and backwards, it can take a while to figure out exactly where they stand, and where exactly they're going.